A Hall of Famer Retires

by John Furgele

Jeff Kent will announce his retirement from baseball, as soon as tomorrow and in 2014, the Baseball Hall of Fame should be welcoming the sometimes mercurial Kent into its doors.

Sure, there will be detractors—there always are—that believe that only multiple MVP winners should be enshrined, but Kent’s numbers are very good; in fact, they’re excellent.  In 17 seasons, he batted .290 with 377 HRs and 1,581 RBI.  In 12 of his 17 seasons, he hit 20 or more home runs, including 20 as a 39 year old in 2007.  Last year, despite injuring his knee in August, he still had a .280 batting average with 12 HRs and 59 RBI. 

Kent won the NL MVP award in 2000, and helped the Giants reach the 2002 World Series, where they were on the cusp of a world title.  They led Game 6 5-0, a game in which Kent homered, but the Angels rallied to win that game and then Game 7 the next night.  For the series, Kent went 8 for 29, batting .276 with three home runs and seven RBI. 

He did have Barry Bonds to help him in the Giant lineup, but Gehrig had Ruth and Hank Aaron had Eddie Mathews; so Kent was not alone in that department.  Kent had eight 100 RBI seasons, including a career high 128 in 1998.

The person he is most compared to is Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, who Kent surpassed for most home runs by a second baseman with 351.  Sandberg was a better fielder, but Kent, in his prime was solid.  Their numbers are below.

Kent:  .290, 2,461 hits, 560 doubles, 47 triples, 377 HRs, 1,581 RBI, 801 BB, .356 OBP, in 8,498 at bats.

Sandberg:  .285, 2,365 hits, 403 doubles, 76 triples, 282 HRs, 1,061 RBI, .344 OBP, in 8,385 at bats. 

Yes, Kent did play in the steroid era, and though he is not strongly suspected, does anybody really know who was clean or wasn’t clean from 1994-20008?  In the HR per at bat ratio, Kent homered once every 22.5 at bats, while Sandberg homered once every 29.7 at bats.

Like Sandberg, Kent never won a title, but baseball is about individuals playing a team sport, and Kent is no brainer.  He should be elected on the first ballot, but Hall of Fame voters are a squirrely bunch and one never knows how the vote will go in late 2013.  But, I suspect that sometime in January, 2014, Kent will get a congratulatory phone call from the Baseball Hall of Fame.

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