Kent beats out teammate for National League honors

Giant becomes first second baseman to win MVP award since Cubs' Ryne Sandberg

Posted: Friday, November 17, 2000

NEW YORK -- Jeff Kent planned to celebrate his National League Most Valuable Player Award in the same understated way that helped him win it.

Kent hopped on the tractor to mow the lawn at his Texas ranch, went out for a barbecue dinner and hoped to go hunting over the weekend.

''It hasn't sunk in yet,'' Kent said Thursday after beating out San Francisco teammate Barry Bonds to win the award. ''I don't have trophies up in the house. I don't keep pictures of myself. I don't brag about my accomplishments. This is something that is a fantasy.''

Kent, the first second baseman to win the award since the Cubs Ryne Sandberg in 1984, received 22 first-place votes, five seconds, four thirds and one fourth for 392 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Bonds, a three-time MVP winner, got six first-place votes and 279 points to give the NL West-champion Giants the first 1-2 finish for a team in the NL MVP since Bonds and Bobby Bonilla did it for Pittsburgh in 1990.

''There is no doubt I wouldn't be doing the things I'm doing without him,'' Kent said. ''The way he gets on base gives me opportunities to drive in runs. You can't really ask for a better guy to hit in front of you than Barry. I complement him as well. I've earned the respect of opponents that they now pitch to Barry.''

Kent hit .334 with 33 homers and 125 RBIs, solidifying himself as one of the best offensive second basemen. His 475 RBIs the last four seasons broke Rogers Hornsby's 75-year-old record for most at the position over such a span.

Chiefly because of the second baseman's RBI total and knack for clutch hits, manager Dusty Baker said Kent would have gotten his MVP vote, not Bonds, perhaps swaying voters. Bonds also had praise for his teammate.

''He's been doing this ever since he got here,'' Bonds said in September. ''The numbers he puts up for a second baseman are amazing. They're great for any player, but to do it at second base is really something.''

The only other MVP second basemen are Joe Morgan of Cincinnati (1975-76), Nellie Fox of the White Sox (1959), Jackie Robinson of the Dodgers (1949), Joe Gordon of the Yankees (1942), Charlie Gehringer of Detroit (1937) and Frankie Frisch of the Cardinals (1931).

''This puts me more in a category along side of guys like that,'' Kent said. ''It is truly an honor to be mentioned in the same breath as those guys. I never try to compare myself with anybody.''

Bonds hit .306 with 49 homers and 106 RBIs. Bonds also scored 129 runs and walked 117 times as he almost became the first four-time MVP in baseball history. He won the awards in 1990 and 1992 in Pittsburgh and in 1993 for San Francisco.

Mets catcher Mike Piazza was the only other player named on all 32 ballots, finishing with three first-place votes and 271 points. He hit .324 with 38 homers and 113 RBIs, but wore down in September, when he hit .222.

St. Louis' Jim Edmonds was fourth (208), followed by Colorado's Todd Helton (198), Montreal's Vladimir Guerrero (117), Houston's Jeff Bagwell (102), Atlanta's Andruw Jones (95), the Cubs' Sammy Sosa (71) and Los Angeles' Gary Sheffield (71).

''I'm floored that people across the country recognized the Giants and more specifically recognized me,'' Kent said. ''I was going against tremendous, quality talent in Barry Bonds, Todd Helton, Jim Edmonds and Mike Piazza. I'm losing my breath mentioning guys like that. To win the award by that margin ...''

Edmonds, acquired in spring training from Anaheim, batted .295 with 42 homers and 109 RBIs. Edmonds also won a Gold Glove for his play in center field.

Helton, who flirted with .400, might have had the best year of any of the hitters, but his statistics were inflated by Coors Field and his candidacy was hurt because the Rockies finished in fourth place in the NL West.

Helton led the league in batting (.372), RBIs (147), slugging percentage (.698), on-base percentage (.463), hits (216), and doubles (59). Helton also hit 42 homers and scored 138 runs.

Kent received a $100,000 bonus on top of his $6 million salary. Piazza got $75,000 and Helton received $50,000.



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