Kent has own comfort zone
“Whatever my legacy is, that’s something I can’t control. If you ask one person, you’ll get one answer. If you ask another person, you’ll probably get a different answer.” And if that one person you ask is Kent himself? “Probably a couple of things,” he said. “One is that I never cheated at the game, ever. And the other is that I did my job and I did it right. My mom and dad taught me that if you do a job, do it right. Don’t do it half(way).” Any other questions? Brian Sabean and Ned Colletti had a few. That was back in the fall of 1996, when Sabean, the general manager of the San Francisco Giants, and Colletti, then his top assistant, were considering trading longtime Bay Area fan favorite Matt Williams to Cleveland. The key player coming back would be Kent, an infielder long on potential who hadn’t quite measured up to it yet. The due diligence of Sabean and Colletti included a phone call to Dallas Green, who had managed Kent in New York before the Mets traded him to the Indians at the previous season’s trading deadline. “Dallas told me if we were looking for a social butterfly, somebody to stand on tables and be rah-rah and take everybody to dinner, we should look somewhere else,” said Colletti, now the Dodgers’ general manager. “But he said if we were looking for somebody who would play this game hard day in and day out, who would always strive to be better, who would be bitter in defeat and would try every single day to figure out how to win a ballgame, then this was our guy.” By the time Colletti was hired to run the Dodgers in the fall of 2005, Kent already was here. And it was Colletti who decided to sign Kent to a $11.5 million contract extension. Kent knows there are many opinions floating around about him, and he also knows it is way too late to change most of them. But he operates on the belief that he is answerable only to his family, his teammates and the organization for which he plays. “I have been criticized for being quiet, moody, selfish, arrogant, just a ton of things,” Kent said. “But I don’t think any of that has been detrimental to my game. I think everyone in this clubhouse should be arrogant and cocky and confident. It’s just another aspect of what a ballplayer should be.” [email protected] (818) 713-3607 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! VERO BEACH, Fla. – It was a little past noon, and the Dodgers’ spring training clubhouse was bustling. A few players were trickling in from the back fields, but most were well into their showers or lunches or whatever they happened to be watching on the various televisions hanging from the ceiling. Jeff Kent, meanwhile, sat silently in front of his corner locker several yards away from his teammates. Having already tossed his uniform into a nearby laundry bin, Kent wore only a blue and white T-shirt and blue shorts. His legs were crossed, his head was bowed and the trademark motorcycle magazine resting on his lap was open to a page he found far more interesting than anything going on in the room. This is Kent at his most comfortable, two weeks shy of his 39th birthday and possibly five weeks shy of kicking off his final six months as a professional baseball player. Is he left undisturbed out of respect, because of all he has accomplished in this game and because of his status as an almost certain Hall of Famer? Or has his notorious and well-chronicled aloofness simply left him without many friends on this team? There is no real answer to that question. No matter how many people might want to stick definitive labels on him, the bottom line is Kent is completely comfortable in his own skin. Kent, a five-time All-Star and the most prolific power-hitting second baseman of all time, prides himself on a lot of things, like his professionalism and the fact that, unlike Barry Bonds, he never has been suspected of messing with the game’s integrity. But mostly, the most misunderstood man on this Dodgers team and possibly in all of baseball prides himself on, well, being misunderstood. “In the 15-plus years that I have played this game, I have had some good years and some bad years, both professionally and personally,” Kent said. “My game has changed over the years, and so has my personality.