Jeff Kent will unlikely make a top 10 list of the greatest players of Major League Baseball for the past 15 years. However, Jeff Kent was one of the craftiest, most clutch hitters during the 15 years he played.
When Cleveland traded Kent to the San Francisco Giants after the 1996 season for Matt Williams, Giants' fans all across the Left Coast blasted upper management for trading away a fan favorite like Matt Williams for an unknown second-baseman. However, Kent proved to be extremely useful for the Giants immediately.
In the 1997 season, he proved to be a worthy anchor and on-deck hitter to protect Barry Bonds from all the intentional walks he had started to receive from a deep contingency of National League pitchers.
Kent smacked a then career-high of 29 homeruns and 121 RBIs during the 1997 season, which proved instrumental in the Giants clinching the National League West for the first time since 1989!
In 2000, Kent earned the National League MVP when he smacked 33 homeruns, drove in 125 RBIs, and batted .334. He edged fellow teammate Barry Bonds for that honor due to the number of those 125 RBIs that occurred following an intentional walk to Bonds.
As a result of Kent's productivity, the Giants clinched another division title that season.
In 2002, Kent reached his career-high in homeruns belting 37 that season. Furthermore, Kent was instrumental in as many ways as Barry Bonds in pushing the Giants to clinching the National League pennant that year. In fact, in the World Series versus the Anaheim Angels, Kent had hit three homeruns with seven RBIs.
Speaking of the postseason, no matter which team Jeff Kent had played for, he performed in October like no other player has in recent memory—with the possible exception of Derek Jeter.
From his playoff experiences with the Cleveland Indians, San Francisco Giants, Houston Astros, and Los Angeles Dodgers, Kent collected a total of 47 hits, nine homeruns, and 23 RBIs in the postseason.
Besides the three homeruns he hit in the 2002 World Series, another major postseason highlight of Jeff Kent's impressive resume included the walk-off three-run homerun he hit in Game five of the 2004 NLCS for the Houston Astros, as they knocked off the St. Louis Cardinals that game 3-0.
Another highlight in Kent's postseason career was the 2006 NLDS with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Although the Dodgers were swept by the New York Mets, Kent demonstrated his veteran capability in the series batting 8 for 13 with one homerun and a .923 slugging percentage!
So, now we get down to the ultimate question. Is Jeff Kent a Hall of Famer?
Considering he was playing under the shadow of a tainted superstar like Barry Bonds for many, many seasons, thus preventing him from further MVP glories that he rightfully deserved (especially for the 2002 season), Kent, in my book, should be a Hall of Famer.
Bear in mind, Jeff Kent's 377 career homeruns ranks him first on the all-time list for second basemen. And the person, whom Kent surpassed for that achievement, was none other than the great Chicago Cub, Ryne Sandberg, who IS a Hall of Famer!
So, in conclusion, this baseball fan tips his cap in laudatory tribute to a man who respected the game, played the game, and lived the game. Way to go, Jeff Kent!