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Assessing Jeff Kent's Candidacy for the Hall of Fame

Briefly a Cleveland Indian, Jeff Kent blossomed into one the best offensive second basemen ever while with the San Francisco Giants

Jeff Kent
Jeff Kent
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Kent made his major-league debut with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1992, then was quickly dealt to the New York Mets for David Cone. He spent parts of five seasons with the Mets before being dealt to the Cleveland Indians for Carlos Baerga in 1996. After the Indians lost in the ALDS that season, the Indians traded him to San Francisco for Matt Williams. Giants fans hated the deal, as Williams had been one of the best players in the game to that point. But Brian Sabean was later vindicated, as Kent almost immediately blossomed into a superstar and outperforming Williams at the plate by a large margin the remainder of his career.

The Case for Jeff Kent

Even though Kent didn't become a great hitter until reaching San Francisco, he was a decent player from the time he reached the majors (Age 24) until his retirement at Age 40. He posted an OPS+ over 100 (league average) in 16 of his 17 seasons. Almost all of that time he spent as a second baseman, and remained at least a decent fielder until his final years in the majors. He finished his career with 560 doubles (21st All-Time) and is the All-Time leader in home runs by a second baseman.

Then there's his peak years, which is basically synonymous with his time in San Francisco. He won the 2000 NL MVP (although Barry Bonds had the better season), finished in the top 10 in MVP voting four times, won four Silver Sluggers, and appeared in five All-Star Games. He was a main contributor to the 2002 pennant winners.

The Case against Jeff Kent

Perhaps his peak wasn't quite good enough if you're in favor of a small Hall. He has a career WAR of 55.2, and while that's more than several HOF second baseman (Nellie Fox, Tony Lazzeri, etc), it's lower than Lou Whitaker, and Bobby Grich, who are not in the Hall of Fame (although you could argue that those two very much deserve to be in the HOF).

Kent also was a late-bloomer, not becoming a great player until his Age 29 season. He did make up for lost time by having that great stretch with the Giants, and remaining a good player until his late 30s, though. Although a lot of metrics rank his defense as at least decent until his late 30s, he was not seen as a good defender during his playing career.

In addition, Kent had a very contentious personality, which probably led to those early trades. Even in San Francisco he fell out of favor, especially after breaking his wrist in 2002 while "washing his truck" (there was speculation that he actually broke it while on his motorcycle). He feuded with Barry Bonds, and eventually left for Houston after the 2002 season.

My two cents

I think Jeff Kent is a Hall of Famer, He checks most of the boxes (peak, career value) and although I readily admit he's not a slam-dunk, especially on such a crowded ballot, he does deserve induction.