Bill Plaschke notes that under the close to two-decades of unpleasantness lies the *real* Jeff Kent.
In announcing his retirement Thursday, Jeff Kent finally showed the passion that he spent 17 years hiding underneath an icy veneer that won many games but few friends.
[Take note Albert Belle: When people refer to you as "surly," correct them; it was merely your *veneer* that was surly.]
He cried when talking about the Dodgers uniform, cried when talking about his family, sincerely thanked reporters for their questions, and even explained the last unexplainable thing in his career. "My dad was a police officer . . . hence, the mustache," he said, smiling below reddened eyes.
[Somewhere Nic Cage is nodding in approval.]
It's a sad thing, knowing now that he could have perhaps used some of this passion to have more impact as a leader.
[MORE impact as a leader?]
He spoke of his confrontations with everyone from Barry Bonds to Milton Bradley to Dodgers rookies as being part of a plan to sacrifice himself for the sake of the clubhouse. "The run-ins I might have had with teammates or some of the media, almost everything I did, I did purposely," he said.
[O Captain! My Captain!]
He said that his perceived toughness on teammates was just his way of injecting a respect for the game.
[Similar to when Kenny Rogers gave that cameraman an "esteem hug" back in June 2005.]
His one misgiving, he later admitted, was that perhaps he wasn't tough enough on one teammate. Kent will forever believe that after his San Francisco Giants blew the five-run lead in the last three innings of Game 6 of the 2002 World Series against the Angels, he should have fought Barry Bonds.
[He even went as far as passing the bat-boy a note addressed to Bonds that read: "Visitors parking lot - 30 minutes after the game. Be there. Or else. P.S. Nobody likes you."]
"If I had fought Barry, I could have gotten the focus off losing, and we could have been better prepared for Game 7."
[This has to be the mustache talking, right? I can hear the pre-game interview now: "You know, despite the fact that I have two broken bones in my hand and Barry's jaw is wired shut, we've never been more focused as a team than we are right now."]
We may have never known the depth of the real Jeff Kent, but the one we did know was plenty.