Introduction | Poll | The Backlog Problem
Frank Thomas | Jack Morris | Jeff Bagwell | Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina
Craig Biggio | Edgar Martinez | Tim Raines | Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens
Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Rafael Palmeiro | Mike Piazza
The worst ballot ever
A quick programming note: This will be the last individual player we'll look at. Tomorrow Pat and I will post our full ballots before the election results are announced. We end things with the last significant newcomer to the ballot, Jeff Kent. I'll go first.
Jeff Kent has become almost the forgotten newcomer to the ballot. He has one big bullet point in his favor: the most career home runs as a second baseman. 351 of his 377 career homers came at the keystone. He has a very good peak, which didn’t begin until age 30 with the Giants. In San Francisco, he hit .297/.368/.535 and won the 2000 NL MVP. He was also known for fighting with Barry Bonds in a rift where no one outside the organization really wanted anyone to win.
Kent moved on to the Astros in 2003 for two years, and then ended his career with four year in LA with the Dodgers. In both places he continued to hit, giving him a ten year peak (1998-2007) of .301/.373/.529, pretty good figures for a second baseman. I haven’t mentioned his 20s yet, which includes time with the Mets and Indians, as well as shortstop and third base. In those years, he was a slightly above average hitter, which is still pretty good for a middle infielder. His overall career line is .290/.356/.500 with 2461 hits.
The big negative with Kent is defense, which I haven’t mentioned much in this series, but certainly matters for a second baseman. The advanced metrics consider him below average, and I don’t recall any hosannas about his defense while he was playing.
This is a case that I’m having trouble wrapping my arms around either way. One thing that surprised is how low Kent scored in JAWS, the metric for Hall of Fame measurement SI baseball blogger Jay Jaffe created (BTW, you should read Jaffe’s entire Hall of Fame series if you’re interested in the Hall at all, no matter how stat inclined you are or aren't). That and the crowded ballot are enough to make me say NO for now, but that’s essentially a punt.
WILL HE GET IN: No. He’s 5th on the list of newcomers. He should stay on the ballot, which is good, but I can’t see him breaking out of the teens percentage wise, if not lower.
Pat's take: I was never a huge fan of Jeff Kent. I'm not sure exactly why, but I always thought he was a bit overrated.
Perhaps it's because he won the 2000 MVP award over his teammate Barry Bonds, despite Bonds being the clearly more valuable player. Perhaps it's because he peaked a little later than I would have liked, finally rounding into form as a player in his age 29 season. I'm not sure exactly what it was about Kent during his playing days, but I was never much of a fan.
That having been said, there's no doubt that he was an elite offensive second baseman. He was never a masterful defensive player, but his offensive numbers were among the best numbers in his era for a second baseman, and he was a well-deserving All-Star 5 times, and maybe should have been awarded a few more times.
Kent played with a lot of suspected PED users. While that won't factor into my personal evaluation of him, I'm sure it will create considerable issues with various members of the BBWAA, who refuse to vote for anyone with even the slightest tinge of PED suspicion.
I think that he's a borderline case in most years, but definitely isn't among the top 10 options this year, which means there's no way he'd possibly get a vote from me at the moment.
He deserves to stay on the ballot for another few years, at the very least, but that might take a miracle in itself.
WILL HE GET IN: This year? Absolutely not. Later? He might, but I certainly wouldn't hold my breath. He was a very good player, and had a huge offensive impact late into his 30s. But there are an awful lot of great players on the ballot, and there's no way he's even close to legitimate consideration yet.