Now that Curt Schilling, Barry Bonds and Rogers Clemens are no longer on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot for the BBWAA, it’s easier to focus on the candidacies of other great players up for consideration.
One player that I feel is long overdue for an entry into Cooperstown is second baseman Jeff Kent.
Kent never failed a drug test and was never, at any point in his career, linked to any usage of performance-enhancing drugs. As players like Bonds, Clemens, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa have been kept out of the Hall for their usage of PED’s, some of the players that excelled during that same era, without any linkage to steroids have not been rewarded.
Kent is one of the greatest hitters to ever play second base. No second baseman has hit more home runs than Kent, who clubbed 377 long balls over the course of his 17-year Major League Baseball career. Over 17 seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays, New York Mets, Cleveland Indians, San Francisco Giants, Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers, Kent posted a career Batting Average of .290, with a career .356 On Base Percentage and .855 OPS. Kent made five All-Star appearances, and won the 2000 National League MVP award, besting his teammate Barry Bonds. Kent received four Silver Slugger awards, too.
The biggest knock against Kent as he has received consideration for the Hall of Fame has been the second baseman’s defense. Kent’s defensive metrics do not look particularly strong, in comparison to other players that have manned the position. However, had Kent played 20 years later in an era where defensive shifting had been perfected, his defensive metrics would look a lot better.
Furthermore, designated hitters Edgar Martinez and David Ortiz received enshrinement to the Hall of Fame in recent years. Ortiz was a minus-defender, and really only played first base in interleague play and road World Series games. Ortiz was not penalized for his defensive limitations, and in my opinion, National League players that weren’t afforded the luxury of being a designated hitter should not be penalized for their defensive efforts.
Kent is in the final year of his candidacy, on the writers’ ballot. He could still receive entry to the Hall, but it in order for it to come from the writers, he must received 75% of the vote Tuesday. He received only 32.7% last year. He’ll need to jump up 43 points in order to receive inauguration, a steep climb.
If Kent does not hear his name called on Tuesday, it will be a real shame.
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