Believe it or not, Kent's a Hall of Famer -- just look at the numbers
For me, when someone says, "Jeff Kent," well, I don't think "Hall of Famer"
Then, I look at the numbers and see that my perception of Kent is entirely wrong
Kent got a late start, but he had a tremendous nine-year peak from 1997-2005
I don't know how it is for you, but for me, when someone says, "Jeff Kent," well, I don't think "Hall of Famer." I just don't -- this is an utterly involuntary reaction. I never thought of him as a great player when I watched him play. I never felt any special excitement when he was in the game. I didn't think he deserved the MVP he won in 2000 -- in my memory, his own teammate Barry Bonds was clearly the better player -- and I thought when I watched him play that Kent was a first baseman masquerading as a second baseman.* Even when he became the all-time home run leader for second basemen, I yawned. Big deal. I thought: That's like setting the NFL record for most rushing yards by a quarterback, or NBA record for most assist by a power forward, or something. It's quaint and worth a little bit of applause, but it hardly stands a a defining hallmark of greatness.
*Speaking of out-of-place second basemen, our K.C. Star pal Sam Mellinger reports that the Royals are going to give Mark Teahen a shot to play some second base. It's an interesting move -- Teahen came up as a third baseman, he shifted to corner outfield, and he is listed at 6-foot-3. As Sammy points out, the only second basemen in baseball history to be that tall and get 500 plate appearances at second base are:
1. Don Kolloway (4,244 PAs, 80 OPS+)
2. Mike Andrews, (3,685 PAs, 104 OPS+)
3. Bob Randall (1,491 PAs, 74 OPS+)
4. Alexei Ramirez (509 PAs, 103 OPS+)
Of course, this is a little bit misleading. Ryne Sandberg was 6-2 (and a converted third baseman). Bobby Grich was 6-2. Ron Oester, Jerry Lumpe, Jose Lopez -- all 6-2. And there have been a whole bunch of 6-1 second basemen, including Chase Utley, Alfonso Soriano and the subject of this post, Jeff Kent.
And so, I have to admit, I'm kind of excited that the Royals are going to try Teahen at second base. I mean, hey, I don't know how seriously they will try. And I don't know if it can work. But I think this is precisely the sort of risk-reward thinking the Royals should be doing right about now. Teahen doesn't really have a place on the Royals at the moment. He doesn't fit in the outfield. The Royals are overloaded with first basemen. Alex Gordon needs to be at third base every day -- he looks to me poised for a breakout season. And the Royals even have their super sub (hopefully) in Willie Ballgame, who plays seven positions, including all three outfield spots.
But second base -- hey, why not, right? Teahen's a good athlete. He has a good and accurate arm. He likes playing the infield. And -- this is just my opinion -- I've always felt like if the Royals would just give him a role and leave him alone and not expect him to be things he ain't, he could really emerge as a good offensive player. I don't know if he can turn the double play. I admit he would look odd at second, at least for a while. But I'm really glad the Royals are trying it -- especially if Teahen gets into it. Seems to me that's one that could pay off in a big way. And if it doesn't, hey, you could at least say you tried.
Back to Jeff Kent. My point is that none of us are immune to the emotions of the moment. I have never really expressed it this way, but I GET why some people don't vote for Bert Blyleven for the Hall of Fame. He generally was not viewed as a great pitcher while he pitched. I GET why Lou Whitaker and Dan Quisenberry and Ken Boyer received limited-to-no Hall of Fame support while Ryne Sandberg and Bruce Sutter and Brooks Robinson have plaques in Cooperstown right now. The latter three had this aura about them that the former three did not. I get the concept of perception and gut reaction and that in some twisted way a Hall of Famer is supposed to represent something transcendent in our consciousness. I feel those things too. I FEEL like Jeff Kent is absolutely not a Hall of Famer, and I'm always surprised whenever some announcer or writer calls him one.
Then, I look at the numbers. And I see that my perception of Jeff Kent is entirely wrong.