Jeffrey Franklin (Jeff) Kent (born March 7, 1968 in Bellflower, California) is a Major League Baseball player and a former MVP winner. He is widely regarded as one of the best offensive second basemen to have ever played the game.
Kent was a star player at the University of California, Berkeley prior to being drafted in the 20th round of the 1989 amateur draft by the Toronto Blue Jays. He was noted throughout college for his rigorous work ethic and passion for the game, but also for his rifts with the team manager. Prior to college, Kent had also had a run-in with his Edison High School baseball coach; he was booted off the team as a result.
After three seasons in the minor leagues, Kent was invited to spring training with the Jays in 1992 and made the opening day roster. He made his debut on April 12 but saw limited at-bats early in the season; however, an injury to starting third baseman Kelly Gruber granted Kent a more regular role in the line-up.
Kent was traded on August 27 to the New York Mets along with a player to be named later (Ryan Thompson) for David Cone. It was a deal decried by both Toronto and New York fans. Many Toronto fans felt the club was compromising their future and that Kent had earned the starting job at third base; many New York fans could not bear to see the fan-favorite Cone let go.
Kent's time with the Mets was marked with some success and some failure. Although he batted well, particularly for a second baseman, the Mets were among the worst teams in the National League. Furthermore, he acquired a poor reputation in the clubhouse where he was known for a quick temper and isolationism.
In a deal made prior to the 1996 trade deadline, the Mets sent Kent to the Cleveland Indians, where he had a limited impact in the Indians' playoff run. The following offseason Kent was again traded, this time to the San Francisco Giants. The San Francisco trade was initially very unpopular, as it sent Matt Williams, a longtime Giant and a fan-favorite, to the Indians. Brian Sabean, in his first year as General Manager of the Giants, was so widely criticized for the move that he famously defended himself to the media by saying, "I am not an idiot."
Kent's career took off in San Francisco. Immediately inserted in the line-up behind superstar Barry Bonds and with the confidence of manager Dusty Baker, Kent rose to his potential, hitting .250 with 29 HRs and 121 RBIs. He was consistently among the top RBI hitters in the league over his next five seasons with the Giants, amassing 689 RBIs over six years, an unprecedented amount for a second baseman. His contributions were recognized in 2000 with the National League MVP Award, beating out teammate and perennial MVP-candidate Bonds. Nevertheless, Bonds virtually overshadowed Kent in almost every offensive category.
Kent and the Giants appeared in the 2002 World Series, nearly clinching the championship before falling to the Anaheim Angels. Despite the team's success that season, Kent's relationship with the Giants had soured. The Giants front office had lost confidence in Kent after an incident during spring training left him with a broken wrist. Kent had initially claimed that the wrist was broken while washing his truck; ensuing media reports indicated that Kent had crashed his motorcycle while doing wheelies, in violation of his contract. Tension had also grown between Kent and Bonds: a midseason shoving match in the Giants dugout was widely reported.
The departure of manager Dusty Baker, who had first placed trust in Kent, also factored into Kent's eventual decision to leave the Giants. Kent signed a two-year, $18.2 million deal with the Houston Astros, citing his desire to be closer to his family's Texas ranch.
In his finest moment as an Astro, Kent hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth in Game 5 of the 2004 National League Championship Series to put Houston ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals 3-2 in the series. The Cardinals won Games 6 and 7 in St. Louis to capture the pennant.
- 5-time All-Star (1999-2001, 2004-05)
- National League MVP (2000)
- Finished 6th in National League MVP voting (2002)
- Finished 8th in National League MVP voting (1997)
- Finished 9th in National League MVP voting (1998)
- Finished Top-5 in RBIs (1997, 1998, 2000)
- All-time leader in home runs as a second baseman (278)
- Only second baseman to have 100 or more RBIs in 6 consecutive seasons (1997-2002)
- Hit for the cycle (1999)
- Toronto Blue Jays (1992)
- New York Mets (1992-1996)
- Cleveland Indians (1996)
- San Francisco Giants (1997-2002)
- Houston Astros (2003-2004)
- Los Angeles Dodgers (2005-present)