For the Record
Jeff Kent
Jeff Kent accepts the NL MVP award in November 2000.

As you may recall, I have pretty strong feelings on players who are clear-cut first-ballot Hall of Famers getting waved through the doors at Cooperstown. But since a majority of Hall candidates do not have such an open-and-shut case, the 15-year limit of the writers' ballot can actually be a good thing since it gives people more time to debate the merits of a player's worthiness of inclusion.

In other words, the writers' ballot was made exactly for players like Jeff Kent, whose name is sure to spark numerous debates on television, radio and the Internet in the years to come on what exactly constitutes a Hall of Famer. Are numbers all that matter? How much, if at all, should a player's position factor in? How to judge players who came of age in the Steroids Era, even if (like Kent) they have never been accused of taking steroids but rather, simply benefitted from the ripple effects of the time (smaller ballparks, watered-down pitching, emphasis on the home run, etc.).

Deciding what makes a Hall of Famer may have more to do with deciding if Kent should be in than his own numbers will. But for now, let's focus simply on the stats and see if he passes that smell test first before worrying about what his election would mean.

At first glance, Kent does not seem to measure up to the Hall's elite standards, at least not when measured against those already enshrined in Cooperstown and those likely to be some day. Perhaps over time, people will appreciate his contributions more and he will gain momentum toward possible enshrinement. For now, though, his case seems to rest with the idea that he is, as has often been put forth, "the best offensive second baseman of all-time." And in one way, the most obvious way, he is: Kent's total of 377 home runs is the most ever by a player whose primary career position is second base. (He's also the career leader among second basemen in double-plays grounded into, but I don't think that's what his proponents had in mind). But check out some of his other rankings among second-sackers.

Batting average: 29th, .290 (Behind such luminaries as Placido Polanco and Bip Roberts)

RBIs: 3rd, 1,518

OBP: 49th, .356

Slug: 4th, .500

Walks: 24th, 801 (Again, trailing notable offensive threats such as Chuck Knoblauch, Ray Durham and Mark McLemore)

Hits: 10th, 2,461

Runs: 11th, 1,320

Strikeouts: 2nd, 1,522

His defensive rankings among second baseman do nothing to help his cause: He's seventh all-time in games played, 17th in chances, 15th in assists, 22nd in putouts but only 79th in fielding percentage.

His resume isn't exactly overflowing with honors, either. He was the 2000 NL MVP and he played on five All-Star teams, but he only had three other top-10 MVP finishes and it seems strange that the "best offensive second baseman of all-time" only won four Silver Slugger awards, including none before age 32.

In other words, Kent's numbers represent a career that was far from super. Impressive, yes. Hall of Fame worthy, no.


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