What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Jeff Kent? Surly? Mustachioed? Overrated? Jerkwad? One of the greatest second baseman ever? Product of the steroid era? Clutch?
Unfortunately, all of these things may be true and that’s what makes the debate about whether Kent should enter Cooperstown so difficult. When he retired last week public opinion about his credentials seemed to be split. Peter Gammons, one of the most respected minds in baseball, said that Kent was a first ballot Hall of Famer. After all, Kent was one of the greatest offensive second baseman of all-time, hitting 351 HRs at the position (a record), and winning the MVP award in 2000 with an outstanding .334-33-125 line. He finished his career with a .290 batting average, 377 HRs, 1518 RBIs, 2461 hits, 560 doubles and 1320 runs from a position that is not normally associated with power.
On the other hand, many would point out Kent’s defensive liabilities or the fact that he only made 5 All-Star teams and was never seen as a dominant player of the era. While he did win four Silver Sluggers, Kent never led the league in a major offensive category (he was second in the NL in hits in 1999) and never again finished in the top-5 in MVP voting. Additionally, his Oscar the Grouch like personality does little to help his case, as some members of the media vote for inclusion.
So, does Jeff Kent deserve to be in the Hall-of-Fame?