It's Just Jeff Being Jeff
Maybe only Barry Bonds' off-putting personality could make Jeff Kent seem like a nice guy. But why does Kent have to come off as a nice guy, anyway? If he's anything, he's a first ballot Hall of Famer, and may well be the best second baseman of all time. So when Kent runs his mouth, he shouldn't be judged so quickly, and so harshly.
In recently calling out another Hall of Famer, broadcaster Vin Scully, who made a statement declaring Kent's recent success was only because of the addition of another soon to be HOF'er, Manny Ramirez, Kent inflamed a spark of disgust in many baseball aficionados. "I've been here for four years and I've never seen Vin Scully down here in the clubhouse," Kent urged, "How does [he] know me?" Kent was obviously upset at the suggestion he isn't able to produce without another proven hitter alongside him.
And this is nothing new. Kent angrily and physically accosted Barry Bonds in the dugout while they were teammates in San Francisco. Kent won an MVP as a Giant, but he couldn't stand the thought (supposedly) of there being a better player on the team than he was--or rather, one so boastful of his accomplishments. He even managed to leave the Astros on bad terms--even after soon to be HOF'er Craig Biggio made the move to centerfield to clear the way for Kent at second base.
No one has ever associated the words "cordial" and "Jeff Kent," but to assume that he is the mere product of the players around him is asinine. Sure, he has played on some incredible teams and most of them incredibly talented. Yet, as memory serves, Kent seemed to always be in the middle of the order, cracking 20+ HR's and driving in well over 100 runs. To say that he can't produce without the likes of other great bats stacked next to him is to say that he doesn't deserve credit for coming up with those numbers. Kent may well be one of the most clutch hitters of all time. Maybe Barry Bonds doesn't win all those MVP's without Kent's bat behind him.
Kent played around with Scully's comments, saying that "Baseball is a six month game," and the happenings over a week's course do not a season make. Does the addition of Manny Ramirez help him; sure. But did joining Jeff Kent in the middle of the order help Manny Ramirez; yes. A lot. If Kent will do anything for another player, it's reignite a passion for the game of baseball--something Man-Ram desperately needed. Kent plays the game the right way. You can't help but want to be on a team with the rare, quiet, true grit that Jeff Kent commands.
So let him run his mouth every now and then. Even if his comments about Scully were tongue-in-cheek, it's not difficult to think of worse things a player can do or say to tarnish his image (see Manny being Manny). And on that note, it seems as if Kent only quibbles with other HOF caliber talents--Bonds, Biggio and Bagwell, Ramirez, and Vin Scully. It's not as if Kent doesn't know how exceptional some of the talents are around him--he simply expects more out of his HOF brethren, whether that be in performance on the field, or actions and words off of it.
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