'State of Kent' address focuses on future
Second baseman knows front office committed to improving
VERO BEACH, Fla. -- It's become something of a ritual with the seemingly ever-changing Dodgers -- Jeff Kent delivering his "State of Jeff Kent" address just before the first full workout of Spring Training.
Only three of Kent's 16 Major League seasons have been in Dodger Blue, but that ties him with Derek Lowe right behind Brad Penny for longest continuous service on a club that has seen dramatic turnover recently.
It was the ongoing youth movement that Kent was portrayed as being resentful toward when last season deteriorated, but he made it clear on Wednesday that his frustration was about team results, not about a particular person or a movement.
"Gentlemen, my frustration doesn't lie with anybody, they lie with wins and loses," said Kent, who turns 40 next month. "You don't win and anybody that's not frustrated, they shouldn't be playing the game. My frustration was not with a player or management, and therein lies the frustration.
"You hope to build on your mistakes as a player and an organization. You lean back and are complacent, anybody who's complacent is not worth being a professional athlete."
Kent let his frustration be known when the Dodgers were eliminated from postseason contention last year in Colorado and his generalized comments were interpreted by many as a criticism of the approach by younger teammates, as well as former manager Grady Little. Matt Kemp and James Loney responded with defensive comments, a series of closed-door meetings followed and -- to whatever extent one can be linked to another -- Little and some staff members are no longer with the club.
Kent said he since has had several conversations with club owner Frank McCourt and his wife, club president Jamie McCourt, and is convinced of their commitment to winning a World Series championship, which ultimately is what brings Kent back each year.
"The McCourts realize that and obviously have made progress and are not complacent," Kent said. "The team they are presenting to the fans this year -- the fans don't want to go through the motions. They want to win. Give them anything shy of that and they'll be ticked off. And the team's players should be as well."
Kent said that ownership shares his passion and desire to win, but balances that with a desire to rebuild the roster from within.
"They don't want to allow things to fester, and by that I mean losing," he said. "It's an optimistic situation watching Joe Torre, a big addition to accountability. You want the moves made to bolster the team and you can't help but be excited. I know the fans on the caravan a couple weeks ago are really excited about the future and it's got to do with the changes made."
Kent, whose 2008 option was vested by his performance last year, said his decision to return was not pinned to any one move in particular but "a culmination of things," including family support "that made the decision easy to come back." He said playing beyond this year would be decided "at another time and another place."
Many believe Kent will wind up in the Hall of Fame. He is a five-time All Star and the all-time leading home run hitter for second basemen. He led the club last year with 20 home runs and a .302 average. He is 27th on the all-time doubles list, 65th on the all-time home run list (365) and 52nd on the all-time RBI list.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.