February 2nd, 2009 11:36 EST
The All-Time Home Run Leader at Second Base Retires
In front of a news conference held at Dodger Stadium one week ago, Jeff Kent tearfully confirmed many of the reports that were spread in the off-season. Kent, the hard-nosed offensive punch at second base for six different teams over the years, announced he`s retiring after 17 years in Major League Baseball.
Known for his slugging prowess throughout his years, Kent only hit 12 home runs in 440 at-bats last season.
I believe I`ve played this game right and I believe I`m leaving this game right, " he said amidst reporters, team personnel, and his family who stood by his side during the entire conference. He had said that the main factor in his decision to retire was the fact that he was often away from his wife, daughter, and three sons during the season. Though obviously down-hearted, Kent talked of relishing the time to devote to those most important to him. Even the Dodgers` owner, Frank McCourt, was present as Jeff recalled many of his finest moments in a career hopefully enshrined on a plaque in Cooperstown some day.
Drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in 1989, Kent had been a solid, if not outstanding, second baseman for the Blue Jays, Mets, and Indians, before going west to San Francisco. By the time he joined the Giants in 1997, he was already 29 when a pro-ball player`s career usually began to decline, but Kent`s was at its advent. 1997 was the first year of Kent`s remarkable nine-year streak of having at least 20 home runs and 90 RBIs a season. He had been in the running for the National League MVP award three years in a row, before he turned in his finest performance during the 2000 season.
In 2000, he hit for a .334 average (his highest mark year-to-date and since), 196 hits (another record), 33 home runs and 125 RBIs. His leadership in the clubhouse was a main contributor to the Giants making it to the playoffs that year.
He spent two more years in San Francisco. Justly enough, he had a .313 average, 37 home runs, and 108 RBIs in his final act there in 2002, which rivaled even his 2000 campaign. The Giants made it to the World Series that year on the strength of Kent, the club`s pitching, and Kent`s teammate, Barry Bonds who hit 73 home runs on route to winning the MVP award.
Unfortunately the series came down to several clutch hits by the Angels in game seven for the Angels to take the series 4 games to 3. Though the Giants lost the Championship, Kent hit 3 home runs and 7 RBIs in the seven-game contest.
Jeff had two more productive seasons in his next whistle stop, Houston, before he was traded to Los Angeles in 2005 where he had 105 RBIs that season. He couldn`t attain over 20 home runs or 100 RBIs again in his career. In addition to his MVP award, Jeff Kent won 5 Silver Slugger awards and was elected to participate in 5 All-Star games.
Though he grappled injuries his last three seasons, Jeff Kent exits baseball with a .290 lifetime batting average, 377 career home runs (351 of which he hit as a second baseman which is 1st all-time at his position) and 1,518 RBIs.