The Ballot: Jeff Kent

Hitting: 300 points

Fielding: 20 points

Won an MVP award: 25 points

Probably should have lost the MVP to three other guys on this ballot -- Bonds, Helton and A. Jones: minus-5 points

Perfectly acceptable baseball mustache: 5 points

Most homers ever for a second baseman: 10 points

Hall of Fame Race to 400 points: 355

* * *

I'm not going to lie: The Jeff Kent Hall of Fame argument just doesn't interest me much. There are some smart people out there -- Tom Verducci, I know, is a Jeff Kent guy -- who get really worked up about him. They mention his MVP award, his good years in the middle of the lineup with Barry Bonds, and they repeatedly make the point that he has more home runs than any second baseman ever.

To me ... eh. I'm not saying he IS NOT a Hall of Famer. You could make a case.

I'm just saying that the case bores the life out of me.

I suppose this is part of what makes the Baseball Hall of Fame such a wonderfully contentious place. Most people I know have very strong opinions about why certain players have no business in the Hall of Fame ("It's not the Hall of Very Good!"), while at the same time they're utterly convinced that other people with no better argument should have been put in YEARS ago ("It's a sham!")

I'm not immune to this. I'm not close to immune. Just one example: I've written on more than one occasion that Jim Rice's Hall of Fame case was flimsy, while, at exactly the same time, I've written on more than one occasion that Dale Murphy belongs in the Hall of Fame. As Brilliant Reader Paul pointed out years ago, there's not really any sound argument that Murphy belongs but Rice doesn't.

Here you go -- bonus stuff -- the Race to 400 for Rice and Murphy:

Jim Rice

Hitting: 343 points

Fielding: 10 points

League leaders: 45 points (led in homers three times, RBIs twice, slugging twice, hits once, triples once)

Won an MVP award: 25 points

Reputation as a feared hitter: 10 points

Fenway Park adjustment: minus-10 points

Hall of Fame Race to 400 points: 423

Dale Murphy

Hitting: 273 points

Fielding: 20 points

League leaders: 35 points (led league in homers twice, RBIs twice, slugging twice, runs once)

Won two MVP awards: 50 points

Often regarded as best player in baseball in '80s: 50 points

Wasn't best player in baseball in '80s: minus-25 points

Launching pad adjustment: minus-10 points

Nicest guy in the world, credit to the game, etc.: a billion points (let's just give him 20)

Hall of Fame Race to 400 points: 423

You can see what I did there -- I totally tilted the rankings to help out Dale. I gave him 20 points for being an all-time great guy. Does he deserve those? I say yes. It's my system. But I also gave him 25 points for being regarded as the best player in the game (when he wasn't), while I only gave Rice 10 points for being regarded as the most feared hitter in the game (when he wasn't). I gave Murphy full credit for his two MVPs, though there's a good argument that he didn't deserve either. This is what I immodestly love about my system: It demands that you put your opinions out there, in black and white.

There's no fair argument I could make that Dale Murphy is MORE deserving than Jim Rice to be in the Hall of Fame. (I could go on about Dale's Gold Gloves and such, but that's not a real argument.) I do believe that Murphy is at least EQUALLY deserving. I do believe that it's blatantly illogical for Rice to have gotten three times the support of Murphy.

But that's not the same thing. I made the choice to be for Murphy in the Hall and against Rice in the Hall. I did that because Murphy captivated me more. And, let's face it, Rice is actually IN the Hall of Fame because he captivated more people.

Take the emotion out of the Hall of Fame, and you take out so much of the light.

So there it is: Jeff Kent's Hall of Fame argument does nothing for me. He was a really good player. He was intense. He peaked late. He proudly said that he didn't even like baseball. He hit 377 home runs, which is fine, but everybody hit home runs in his day. I don't see what gives him a better Hall of Fame argument than 50 other guys.

The biggest Hall of Fame justification for Kent seems to be that aforementioned "He hit more home runs than any second baseman ever" thing. The usual counter-argument is that he wasn't a very good second baseman, which is true, but I would say there's something else about it that falls flat for me.

[caption id="attachment_23952" align="aligncenter" width="483"] Most home runs by a second baseman? Eh.[/caption]

And that is: Are second basemen known for hitting home runs? No. They're specifically known for NOT hitting home runs. Duane Kuiper was a second baseman. It was historically the one position on the field where you could put a spry defender who uses a toothpick for a bat. You know who holds the record for home runs hit by a second baseman in a season? Davey Johnson. He set it in 1973.*

*Do you know who holds the NFL record for interceptions among linebackers? I'm guessing you don't -- it's Don Shinnick.

I mean, Brandon Phillips, Damion Easley, Aaron Hill and Rickie Weeks are all in the Top 25 for most home runs by a second baseman.

To me, Kent being the all-time home run leader among second basemen is trivia, not a captivating Hall of Fame case. What player born in the great state of Michigan has the most home runs?* What about New Jersey?** Oregon?***

*It's a tie -- Kirk Gibson and John Mayberry, each with 255. Then Hall of Fame faves Ted Simmons and Bobby Grich.

**Erik Karros (284) held off Derek Jeter (260), though, let's be honest: This will be Mike Trout by a landslide soon enough.

***Alas, it's not Dale Murphy (I was hoping), with 398. Dave Kingman was born in Oregon and had 442 homers.

The most homers for a second baseman argument is a lot like that.

At least to me. But I readily admit: The Jeff Kent Hall of Fame thing just does nothing for me. Would he be the worst player in the Hall of Fame? No, not even close. Is he the best player not in the Hall of Fame? No, not even close. Argue for him if you want. I'll be watching a different channel.