Leading Off: Former Giant Jeff Kent deserves Hall of Fame selection

Five players on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot for the first time this year deserve election.

All have stellar statistical career credentials and were dominant players at their positions.

Pitchers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Mike Mussina, and first baseman/designated hitter Frank Thomas are Hall of Fame worthy. Stats show it, and their year-by-year dominance attests to it.

But we’re most interested in Jeff Kent, the crusty second baseman who teamed with Barry Bonds to give the Giants of the late 1990s and early 2000s the most dangerous one-two punch in baseball.

Kent’s statistics, even considered in light of an offense-packed era, stand out. The .290 lifetime average, 377 home runs and 1,518 RBIs compare favorably with or eclipse numbers amassed by the 19 second basemen already in the Hall of Fame. His best days were with the Giants, but he excelled after leaving San Francisco, too.

He wasn’t considered an elite fielder, but Kent was good enough to lead the league in double plays one season and was among the league leaders in assists. He also led the league in errors in 1998, but Babe Ruth drank a lot of beer, so what the hey.

Bottom line is that Kent was a forceful presence on the field and helped make the Giants a winning team after a down stretch and an entertaining offensive show even beyond the Bonds circus.

He’s first ballot all the way.

– Brian Blomster

What to watch

College basketball, North Carolina at Michigan State, 6 p.m., ESPN: After six consecutive losses to the Tar Heels, the top-ranked Spartans have the upper hand in this ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Today’s poll

Does Jeff Kent deserve to be in the Baseball Hall of Fame?

• Yes, first ballot

• Yes, but not this year

• No, he is not a Hall of Famer

To vote, go to

Tuesday’s results

What makes the Sign Lady special?

• Her supportive signs: 5%

• Season-ticket holder since 1985: 5%

• Going to games while fighting cancer: 5%

• All of the above: 85%

Total votes: 151