Mar 6, 2016

Mid Nineties Mets Second Base Slugger: Jeff Kent (1992-1996)

Jeffrey Franklin Kent was born on March 7, 1968 in Bellflower, California. In high school he had a serious run in with his baseball coach which got him removed from the team. He then attended the University of California (at Berkley) playing for the Golden Bears.

The six foot one right hand hitter, was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 20th round of the 1988 draft. He played three brief seasons in the minors, showing power hitting 16 HRs in 1990 at AA ball.

He got onto the Blue Jays Opening Day roster in 1992 debuting on April 12th getting his first career hit that day, a 6th inning double. Two days later he hit his first career HR off Lee Gutterman & the A.L. New York club. In 1992 he played 65 games for Toronto hitting 8 HRs with 35 RBIs and batting .240, through the end of August. On August 27, 1992 Kent & Ryan Thompson were traded to the New York Mets in the trade for pitcher David Cone.

Kent debuted at Shea Stadium on August 28th in a double header against the Cincinnati Reds. He went hitless in the first game, then in the second game had two hits & drove in three runs. Three days later he hit his first Mets HR, while playing both ends of another double header against the Atlanta Braves.

Kent refused to be treated as rookie when arriving in New York, not participating in any hazing that went on to initiate rookies. He insisted his rookie status was left behind in Toronto. Although he angered some of his team mates he did show class by moving over to short stop at the end of the season, allowing Willie Randolph to play his final career game at second base.

In 37 games as a Met he would hit .239 with 3 HRs 8 doubles & 13 RBIs. Kent would become the Mets primary second baseman for the next three & a half seasons, through 1996.

He began 1993 slow hitting just .213 in April & having hit just two Hrs through May. He didn't hit for a high average but his power numbers & run production picked up in the summer.

At the start of the month he had two games where he drove in three runs & during a ten game span from July 17th through the 27th, Kent drove in runs in eight games. In mid August he drove in runs in five of eight games, hitting HRs in consecutive games on August 21 & 22.

In September he drove in twenty runs including RBIs in his last five games of the season. On September 10th Kent drove in four runs against the Chicago Cubs with three hits & a HR. On September 26th he hit a grand slam HR against the Montreal Expos, driving in five runs leading the Mets to a 9-3 win. Three days later in a classic 17 inning pitcher's duel, Kents walk off base hit won it for the Mets off the St. Louis' Cardinals pitcher Les Lancaster. In his first full season with the Mets he hit 21 HRs second on the club to Eddie Murray. Kent hit 24 doubles driving in 80 runs with seventeen multi RBI games, while batting .270.

In 1994 on Opening Day he had four hits, including a three run HR at Wrigley Field helping the Mets to a 12-8 victory over the Cubs. He drove in a pair of runs in his first three games of the year & had a huge April with 8 HRs 26 RBIs, finishing the month batting .375 placing him amongst the tops in the N.L.

In May he remained hot, going into the first week of June batting .323 with 11 HRs. In June he hit safely in 17 of twenty games raising his average above .300.

On July 22nd he hit a grand slam against the San Francisco Giants at Shea leading the Mets to a 6-3 win. In an eight game stretch in mid June he drove in runs in all but one game for a total of eleven RBIs. The seasons ended in early August due to a baseball strike & Kent finished with 14 HRs & was pretty much the team’s offensive leader, leading the team in batting (.292) RBIs (68) hits (121) doubles (24) & triples (5). He helped the Mets climb out of the cellar to third place.

He was sidelined until late April starting out his 1995 season, and struggled out of the gate. Although he hit 5 HRs in May he was batting just .202 in the middle of the month. In June he began to get hit, having eleven multi hit games & by early August he brought his average up to just under .290 . He finished the year out pretty strong with 20 RBIs in September hitting safely in 20 of 25 games.

On the season he hit 20 HRs with 65 RBIs both second best on the club to Rico Brogna. Kent had 22 doubles with a .327 on base % and hit for a .278 batting average.

Although his numbers were good, Kent was not a good fit in New York. He earned the reputation as being difficult in the club house, not getting along with team mates. He was very isolated and kept to himself not participating in team off the field activities. He had a quick temper which presented a whole bunch of other issues with the media.

By 1996 he wasn’t too popular around Shea Stadium, the Mets had had enough of his poor attitude & they began to shop him. By July he was hitting .290 with 9 HRs 20 doubles & 39 RBIs when he was traded along with Jose Vizcaino to the Cleveland Indians for Carlos Baerga. It looked like a good deal at the time but this did not turn out to be a good deal for New York.

Kent was out of Cleveland after the season ended, getting traded to San Francisco for Matt Williams. There he became one of the game’s best run producers & power hitters of his era. In the next decade he would hit over .290 eight times, drive in over 100 runs eight times, hit 30 or more HRs three times & 40 or more doubles four times.

He would get elected to five All Star teams and win the 2000 NL MVP Award putting up 33 HRs 41 doubles 125 RBIs & bat a career high .334. Although Barry Bonds had better numbers on the year, he was often intentional walked and pitchers chose to pitch to Kent.

He excelled in clutch situations & the fact that Bonds was always on base added to his RBI production. Kent had the most success of his career during his Giants years batting behind Barry Bonds, and playing for manager Dusty Baker, although he was still a very controversial figure.

He told the Giants he had broken his wrist while washing his truck, but reports said he was doing stunts on his motorcycle, which violated his contract. His relationship with Barry Bonds was constantly filled with tension and came to a head in a dugout shoving match in 2002. He left the team for free agency going to Houston once Dusty Baker was gone as manager.

Post Season: He played in seven post season Series batting .276 overall with 9 HRs 23 RBIs 11 doubles in 49 games. In the 2000 NLDS against his old Mets team, he drove in just one run although he did hit .375 (6-16) with three runs scored.

In the 2002 World Series he hit 3 HRs with 7 RBIs batting .276 (8-29). In Game #5 at Pac Bell Park he hit two HRs in the Giants 16-4 victory over the Angels.

In the 2004 NLCS with Houston he hit a one of four Astros HRs in Game #1. He returned to hit another in Game #3 in the bottom of the first & hit yet another in Game #5. Overall he drove in seven runs in that series & hit .236.

Kent spent two seasons in Houston batting over .289 both seasons as well as driving in over 90 runs & hitting 22 or more HRs each time. In 2004 he signed a four year deal to play in Los Angeles with the Dodgers. His first season there was his best batting .289 with 29 HRs 36 doubles & 105 RBIs (8th in the league).

Now in his late thirties he began to slow down, having his last good year in 2006 hitting .302 with 20 HRs & 79 RBIs. Kent made two more post seasons with the Dodgers, he was one of the two runners tagged out at home plate by Paul Loduca in Game #1 of the 2006 NLDS against the Mets. He played his final career game in the 2008 NLCS against Philadelphia.

In his 17 season career he retired as the all time HR leader among second baseman with 377 (70th all time overall). Kent had 2161 hits (107th all time) 1518 RBIs (51st all time) 560 doubles (25th all time) 1320 runs scored (117th all time) 103 sac flies (22nd all time) & 2298 games played (109th all time).

Kent struck out 1522 times (53rd all time) & his 801 walks are 249th all time.

Defensively at second base, he led the league in errors four times making 194 in his career (67th all) posting a .980 %.

At second base he played 2034 games played (12th most all time). He made 4016 put outs (19th all time) with 1261 doubple plays turned (12th all time). 

Retirement: In 2009 he appeared on the TV series Superstars teamed up with actress Ali Landry.

In 2012 he was a contestant on Survivor: Philippines. He came the 9th contestant voted off & commented the one million dollar prize would only be worth $600,000 after Obama takes it.

Kent also donated $15,000 to the campaign to ban gay marriage in California.

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