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Question of the Day
KEVIN BREWER: Jeff Kent's 2000 MVP season was good, real good: 33 home runs, 125 RBI, .334 average, .424 on-base, .596 slugging, 114 runs and 41 doubles. He was among the top 10 players in the National League in 2002 and 2005, and he had six other seasons that could be considered All-Star seasons or close to it.
Nine seasons of above average to MVP play is not enough for the Hall of Fame -- unless those seasons are in the Joe DiMaggio or Kirby Puckett range.
Other factors -- fielding and demeanor -- don't help Kent.
Win Shares (2002) rates Kent as a D+ fielder, so all of his great hitting as a second baseman doesn't mean as much if he should have been playing first base. To his credit, Kent made himself into an average fielder from 2000 to 2005. According to The Fielding Bible (2006), his "best weapon is excellent positioning and anticipation, which compensates somewhat for poor range." But he remained poor at turning the double play.
As for his disposition, Kent was a poor teammate. Playing with the San Francisco Giants from 1997 to 2002, he rivaled Barry Bonds' surliness.
Before the 2003 season, broke his wrist while doing a "wheelie" on his motorcycle motorcycle in violation of his contract, but he told the Giants he fell off his truck while washing it.
LACY LUSK: He just doesn't play second base well enough for his position to enter into the equation. The numbers are nice, especially in his late 30s, but not enough.
TIM LEMKE: If Jeff Kent were an actor, he'd be Kiefer Sutherland: Consistently solid and often memorable, but never tremendous. Kent had a few superb years with San Francisco, but he topped 30 homers just three times. His eight seasons with more than 100 RBI seem impressive, but all that really does is lead to comparisons with guys like Joe Carter, Juan Gonzalez and Albert Belle. Despite an MVP award in 2000, Kent has never been considered the best player in baseball at any point in his career.
It is true that his homeruns are tops among all second basemen, but a player's position really only matters when we're discussing their defense. If Kent were like Bill Mazeroski at second base, it'd be a different story. The good news for Kent is that he's still playing well even at age 39. A few more solid seasons, and he'll earn his invite to Cooperstown. But he's not there yet.
PATRICK STEVENS: Does life begin at 30? For Kent, that very well may have been the case, at least in building a case for Cooperstown. And like it is for most players, that's probably too late. The second baseman/amateur motorcyclist compiled his first year with gaudy numbers at age 29, and the first of his three truly great seasons (1998, 2000, 2002) came a year later. He's been an above-average player for more than a decade, but most of that time he either had serious lineup protection (in the form of Barry Bonds) or played half his games in a launching pad (Houston's Juice Box). He cracked the top 10 in MVP voting just four times, and probably won't finish with the gaudy numbers of some of his peers in an age of more prolific offenses. Think of him as the Ron Santo of the modern day - a superb player overshadowed by a vastly more talented teammate - minus, of course, the adulation and reputation as a good guy Santo earned for his years of service in Wrigleyville.
COREY MASISAK: Much of Jeff Kent's resume is based on one thing - he has more home runs as a second baseman (320 of his 346) than any other in the game's history. Given the offensive evolution at that position, he is going to need more to have it hold up. While some of the offensive numbers look better than guys in the Hall like Joe Morgan and Ryne Sandberg, some don't, especially when considering the Barry Bonds effect and playing at Minute Maid Park. Then there is the questionable fielding, and his offensive numbers aren't great enough (like Mike Piazza great) to discount that. There also isn't quite enough above average to great seasons on his resume. He would be one of the better players in the mythical Hall of Very Good.
JOHN TAYLOR: Versatile slugger who has played all over the infield, Kent should be measured against other second baseman, since that is where he spent most of his career (more than 1,800 games). And he is the all-time leader in home runs hit by a second baseman -- more than Ryne Sandberg, who was inducted two years ago. The Hall certainly isn't a home run hitting contest, but Kent's act hold up in other areas as well. He won the NL MVP in 2000, besting teammate Barry Bonds, after batting .334 with 33 home runs. He has picked up four silver slugger awards and five times been named to the All-Star team. He even led the National League in extra-base hits in 2002 with 81. Kent is the closest call among the three players we have voted on so far this year (I gave yes votes to Hoffman and Schilling). But his performance at the plate relative to those past and present at second base, plus his ability to maintain that high level of achievement in his late 30s, earns a yes vote from me.
MARK ZUCKERMAN: I kept looking for reasons to keep him out, but I just couldn't find them. He's got more homers, RBI and a higher batting average than both Joe Morgan and Ryne Sandberg. He won an MVP, and though he hasn't won a World Series, his postseason numbers (.292, nine homers, 23 RBI) are solid. I reserve the right to change my mind as time goes on and those power numbers perhaps look less impressive, but for now, I say he's in.
By Ted Cruz
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