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Kent unconcerned by Hall of Fame vote total

Star second baseman named on 15.2 percent of ballots in first year of eligibility

SAN FRANCISCO -- Jeff Kent likes being part of the Hall of Fame chatter. Just don't ask him to participate in it.

Named on 87 of the 571 ballots cast by Hall of Fame voters, Kent's 15.2 percentage fell far short of the 75 percent needed for induction. Since this represented his first time on the ballot, he'll have as many as 14 more chances -- assuming his vote total never dips below 5 percent -- to gain election.

During his 17-year Major League career, Kent avoided introspective, self-analytical discussions about his stature in the game. But he was more than happy to prompt dialogue among fans and media. And there was plenty of it, given his status as one of the most prolific offensive second basemen ever.

"I've always appreciated the fact that I've been part of arguments, debates and articles about my career and the things I've done," Kent said Wednesday in a telephone interview. "That's what's great about baseball. I don't know if anybody's truly correct. But there are always good arguments in the game. I'm in a sense grateful that people consider it and take note of it."

Kent's Hall of Fame vote total could spark a fresh debate. Some might consider it shockingly low. Then again, maybe Kent was fortunate to receive as many votes as he did. The influx of qualified first-time candidates, including electees Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas, along with impressive holdovers from previous ballots like Jack Morris and Craig Biggio, could have limited the vote for Kent and others.

Characteristically, Kent sounded unlikely to spend time squeezing significance from the voting.

"I didn't have any expectations, so I really don't have any reaction personally," he said. "... I'll continue to ride the wave of not overthinking it, because I can't control it, and we'll see where it lands."

Rich Aurilia, Kent's double-play partner at shortstop when both played for the Giants, expected greater support for his ex-teammate.

"I thought he'd get about 30-35 percent of the vote," said Aurilia, a Giants analyst for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. But, Aurilia added, "There was just such great talent on the ballot this year."

Kent's credentials compared favorably to virtually anybody's on the ballot.

He's the all-time leader among second basemen with 351 home runs, 1,389 RBIs, a .509 slugging percentage and 508 doubles accumulated while playing that position (his overall career totals include 377 homers, 1,518 RBIs, a .500 slugging percentage and 560 doubles). Kent's .866 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) as a second baseman ranks third behind Jackie Robinson's .905 and still-active Chase Utley's .876.

After being traded from the Blue Jays to the Mets late in the 1992 season, Kent performed capably for the Mets for 4 1/2 seasons, batting .279. But he didn't establish himself as a formidable run producer until 1997, his first year with the Giants after being traded from Cleveland. Kent amassed 29 homers and 121 RBIs, beginning a nine-year stretch in which he hit .296 while annually averaging 28 homers and 110 RBIs with a .365 on-base percentage and a .529 slugging percentage. He won four Silver Slugger awards and ranked among the top 20 in Most Valuable Player balloting seven times in that span, capturing the trophy in 2000 with San Francisco.

Kent's offensive contributions from 2003-04 with the Astros and from 2005-08 with the Dodgers indicated that he was a legitimate hitter on his own merit and not dependent on Barry Bonds, who batted in front of or behind Kent during most of their years together in San Francisco.

"I think what Jeff meant to the game of baseball as a second baseman may be appreciated more as time goes by and some of these so-called 'no-brainer' Hall of Famers get in in the upcoming years," Aurilia said. "I think his [vote total] should increase, hopefully dramatically. I'd put him up against anybody all time at the position. He's going to be right there, head-to-head, with them."

Chris Haft is a reporter for Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat.

New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, Jeff Kent