After second baseman Jeff Kent left the San Francisco Giants in 2002, he deeply offended the city by questioning our fashion sense (he chided the home team's "French vanilla" uniforms). Then, last year, he donated $15,000 to the Prop. 8 campaign -- proving that, yes, you can be a fashion critic and
a homophobe ... and thus enraging San Franciscans all the more.
The 40-year-old tearfully announced his retirement
today, testing what Abraham Lincoln referred to as "the better angels of our nature." What do Giants fans think of when Kent's name is uttered: His intentionally unstylish cop/porn
mustache? His claims that he broke his wrist in 2002 while washing his truck -- "I'm just a regular guy!" -- when he was actually hot-dogging it on a motorcycle
? His simmering relationship with Barry Bonds, culminating in a dugout fight
? His generally surly and unpleasant demeanor toward fans (and some teammates)?
Or will we recall how a number of Kent's former colleagues -- black, white, and Latino, incidentally -- vouch for him
. And, statistically and otherwise, San Francisco fans have seldom had a better player to root for. Bonds (juiced or not) may well have been the greatest player who ever breathed -- but it hardly seems coincidental that the Giants' era as a highly competitive club began when Kent was obtained in 1997. If you need reminding how good Kent was, check out his Giants stats here
I'll tell you what I'm seeing in my mind's eye -- I'm remembering Kent's oddly angular batting stance, and the imposing way he held his arms up high and torqued his midsection. I'm also remembering the feeling of dread he inspired in Giants fans after his departure whenever the Dodgers or Astros had men on and Kent came up to bat -- he was booed here, but, just as the opposite of love is not hate but indifference, no one boos an inconsequential player. Those boos only proved what we all knew to be true: Neither Kent nor the fans may have wanted to admit it, but he looked good
in French vanilla.