Saturday, January 18, 2014

Rivalries: Bonds vs Kent

"No big deal."  Jeff Kent told the reporters in the aftermath of the insanity that had just occurred.  "Add this to the half dozen other times we've done it before."

Kent was answering questions just moments after his team had lost 10-7 to the San Diego Padres.   The loss dropped them four and a half games behind the division leading Dodgers and three games behind the Diamondbacks.  If Kent were speaking about the fact that the Giants were behind but within striking distance you could understand the lack of importance that Kent gave to the game.  In reality, Kent wasn't talking about the game at all.  His comments continued.

"Bonds and I have played together for five years.  If there is any dislike I don't think we'd be playing together.  So much has been made between the relationship between Barry and me.  We have a good relationship that I think works well on the field.  I think we do a lot of good things together on the field for this team that benefits him and benefits me.  I think you guys try to create a dysfunctional relationship, that's a farce too, because that's not true."

It seems funny that Kent should say that the implied poor relationship was a farce because Kent had previously and publicly said that Bonds was a selfish player who played by his own rules.  Sounds much less than a happy friendship to me.

So why was this being addressed now and why was Kent saying it was no big deal?

The Padres had scored first in the bottom of the first.  Reggie Sanders led off the Giants half of the second with a single but was stranded there.  Then things got bad.  The Padres part of the second started with a Bubba Trammell fly ball.  1 out.  Wiki Gonzalez singled to right and there was a runner on first.  Then things got worse.  There was one out and a runner on first.  Julius Matos hit a routine ground ball to David Bell at third base.  Jeff Kent assumed the play would be at first but Bell wanted to erase the lead runner.  So Kent jogged past second base.  He was shocked when the ball came to him and he was not in position to force the runner.

 Instead of a second out and runner on first, the Padres were in business.  When the next hitter struck out it looked like they might get away with everything.  Instead things got worse.  A single, a walk and two more singles and the Padres now led 5-0.  Mercifully Ray Lankford struck out looking to end the inning but the fun was about to begin.  Things had already gotten bad.  Now they got ugly.

Before Bell reached the dugout he could hear Kent barking.  The exact words were never disclosed but the intent and the meaning were clear.  Kent blamed Bell for the poor inning.  Bell barked right back and the dogs  were unleashed.  Say what you want about Bonds but he was not going to let Bell, or any of his team mates, be bullied.  Bonds stepped in to defend Bell and all hell broke loose. 

Kent and Bonds were arguing (again, no one knows who said what) and then came the push heard around the Bay Area.  Bonds pushed Kent.  Kent pushed back and the dugout was in full movement to separate the two.  Dusty Baker grabbed Kent and trainer Stan Conte grabbed Bonds and moved them towards the opposite ends of the dugout.  Apparently Kent wasn't done.  He said something to the normally quiet Baker and all of a sudden Baker was yelling at Kent.

All this happened while the Giants were supposed to be batting and fighting for a playoff spot.  The Giants batted in the top of the third and with one out Bell doubled.  Ramon Martinez walked and Bonds launched a three run Home Run to right-center.  Kent followed with a ground out and the Giants went on to lose the game.

The Giants would go on to success in the season.  They passed the collapsing Dodgers.  They took out the Braves in the Division Series.  They beat the Cardinals in the NLCS and advanced to the World Series for the first time since 1989.  They were heavily favored in the World Series against the Anaheim Angels.

Bonds, being one of the greatest hitters of all time, did what you would expect.  In his only World Series appearance Bonds hit .471, launched 4 Home Runs, drove in six runs and walked an amazing 13 times.  Kent wasn't terrible but his numbers didn't approach what Bonds did.  Kent hit three home runs, drove in 7 but struck out 7 times and hit .276.  (Just to be clear I am not blaming Jeff Kent for the World Series loss).  In Game 7 Bonds had one hit, Kent had none and the Angels shocked the heavens.

Following the off season the feuding teammates would be separated permanently.  Bonds continued to pound National League pitching into McCovey Cove while Kent moved on to play in Houston.  After two years in Houston Kent moved on to Los Angeles.  As Bonds neared Aaron's record and was well on his way to becoming hated by everyone outside of San Francisco, Kent was becoming hated by just as many.

As the Dodgers struggled toward the close of the 2004 season tensions in the clubhouse grew high.  On August 25th, with Milton Bradley on base, Kent doubled.  As he pulled into second he was shocked to see Bradley standing on third and not touching home plate.  Whatever his motivation, Kent confronted Milton Bradley in the clubhouse and according to the Los Angeles Times there was "an ugly confrontation".  The following day Bradley popped a ball up in the infield.  Bradley sprinted down to first in an exaggerated display of hustle.  After the out was recorded Bradley immediately turned and pointed at someone in the dugout.  The battle was just beginning.

The war of words flew.  Manager Jim Tracy called both players into a meeting and told them both to shut up and play.  Bradley gave an interview saying Kent was a "clubhouse trouble maker".  Kent fired back to defend himself.  Bradley had apparently accused Kent of not being able to deal with African American players because Kent's response was that he had plenty of former African American teammates that were close friends.  If you didn't believe him you could ask his close friend Joe Carter.  To paraphrase Joe Carter's response "Uh, what?  How did I get dragged into this?"  The confrontation ended when Bradley had season ending knee surgery and went home.

Kent remained in Los Angeles and Bradley moved on.  Kent continued to play well and put up near All Star numbers.  As the 2008 season dragged on and the Dodgers appeared to be underachievers yet again, they made a last minute trade deadline move by picking up Manny Ramirez.  Manny immediately destroyed National League pitching and as pitchers tried to avoid giving Manny pitches to hit, Kent's average skyrocketed.  A lot of people noticed, including someone who has watched nearly every Dodgers game since the 1950's, Vin Scully.  Kent heard what Vin thought, that Manny's presence led to Kent seeing better pitches, and he had a strong response.  Shut up Vin.

2008 was Kent's 17th and final season.  He retired as one of the best hitting Second Basemen in history.  His former sparring partner, Bonds had retired the previous season with the most Home Runs for a career (and a season) and a pending criminal case for perjury.  In an era where the public had changed from adoring athletes and overlooking their flaws, they were now villainizing them whenever possible.  Bonds became the most hated.  Every flaw the man had was magnified like the Bat Signal, while every good deed he ever did was ignored.

Barry Bonds finished his career with 762 career Home Runs.  What three pitchers gave up a) Bonds' first career Home Run, b) Home Run 756 to pass Aaron and c) his final career Home run?

Answer to Last Week's Question:
The Dodgers and Giants moved to the West Coast to start the 1958 season.  The Dodgers faced the Yankees for the first time in the World Series as a West Coast team in 1963 with the Dodgers sweeping the series.  The Yankees faced the Dodgers in the World Series again in 1977, 1978 and 1981.  The Yankees won 1977 and 1978 but the Dodgers won 1981 making them even since the move.  The Giants faced the Yankees in the World Series once (1962) since leaving the East Coast.


  1. My first thought reading the article was Kent and Bonds were just very intense players who really wanted to win. Then as the article went on my thoughts turned to, boy these guys really are selfish ego maniacs. Then you throw in names like Milton Bradley and Manny Ramirez I realize all the miserable baseball people there are. These guys magnify the bad element in baseball.

    I have no clue on the trivia question.


    1. I agree with you there are some very selfish players in baseball but there have always been. Rogers Hornsby was one of the greatest players in history and could change an organization overnight. The problem was no organization could stand having him so he was shipped from organization to organization. Ty Cobb was a tremendous player but he was extremely selfish and difficult to play with (and play for when he was manager). Even Joe Cronin, who wasn't necessarily a selfish player but fits the ego maniac category in some ways, traded Pee Wee Reese to the Dodgers rather than have another shortstop on the team even though Cronin was at the end of his great career.

  2. I remember seeing Kent play in LA and didn't we see him at Photo Day too? I kind of remember thinking he wasn't very nice. lol

    A) Craig McMurty, B) Bacsik, C) Ubaldo Jimenez

    1. Yo are correct that we did see Kent at the Dodgers photo day several times. My impression of Kent as well was that he was not very nice. I do also remember that every time we went to the photo day Kent walked around alone while most other players walked around in groups. That was my recollection of it although I could be remembering incorrectly at this point.


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