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Long time MLB infielder Jeff Kent did not make the Hall of Fame in 2023, and he has some thoughts on who’s to blame.
Third baseman Scott Rolen was the only inductee chosen by voters, with Todd Helton close behind.
The 2023 ballot was Kent’s last appearance, meaning he won’t be inducted unless chosen by a committee.
Kent played 17 seasons in MLB, and had a generally great offensive career. He won the MVP award in 2000 in San Francisco, where he had most of his best seasons.
He finished with a 123 OPS+, made five All Star games, and won four silver slugger awards.
None of that was enough to get him in though, and Kent thinks he has an explanation.
He told the San Francisco Chronicle that Hall of Fame voting is an “embarrassment” in his mind.
“The voting over the years has been too much of a head-scratching embarrassment,” Kent said. “Baseball is losing a couple generations of great players that were the best in their era because a couple non-voting stat folks keep comparing those players to players already voted in from generations past and are influencing the votes. It’s unfair to the best players in their own era and those already voted in, in my opinion.”
Does Kent Have a Point?
Kent’s criticism isn’t really valid, when viewed dispassionately.
“Stat folks” have often defended the Hall of Fame candidacies of players who may have been underappreciated in their eras.
Skills that may have been overlooked are now quantified. Things that Kent excelled at, like getting on base.
And in fact, when looking at stats focused website Baseball-Reference, Kent actually compares well to previous Hall of Famers in two of three predictive categories.
Kent’s problem is that he played an exceptional era for offense, making his counting stats a bit lacking by comparison.
His most impressive offensive category was RBI, where he racked up 1,518. That was good enough to rank just outside the top 50 all time.
But RBI are, rightfully, treated with some skepticism in modern analysis, given they’re dependent on the team, position in the lineup, and opportunity.
Of course, his reputation among sportswriters was also never exceptionally positive. Even though that shouldn’t be a factor, writers often have long, vindictive memories.
There may be arguments to be made that stats based thinking may have gone too far. Or that it’s impacted voting or influenced decisions among sportswriters.
But it’s hard to say that Kent is the biggest victim of such thinking. If anything, he may only have himself and his treatment of the media to blame.