Kent doesn’t hide displeasure
DENVER -- A season’s worth of frustration boiled over in the Dodgers’ clubhouse Thursday, with veteran second baseman Jeff Kent lashing out at a team that two months ago had the best record in the National League yet now finds itself on the verge of elimination from the playoff race.
“I’m angry and disappointed and perplexed. Bitter,” Kent said after the Dodgers fell for the fifth straight time, losing, 9-4, to the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field.
Kent refused to identify the targets of his ire by name, but he cast a wide net when assigning blame for the Dodgers’ long slide from postseason contention.
“You can use all your fingers on your hand and point around,” he said. “There’s many, many things that have happened that are perplexing. Many things that have happened that are curious. Many things that have happened that are unfortunate.
“And you can’t really put a finger on it. But you can point to it. Those things are disappointing. And frustrating as well.”
Asked whether those curious and perplexing things included Manager Grady Little’s daily lineups and the coaching staff’s game strategy, Kent responded: “Everything.”
However, Kent -- who has played in one World Series in a stellar 16-year career -- made it clear that one major source of his displeasure is the Dodgers’ recent accent on youth. Although the team opened the season with seven players with fewer than two seasons of big-league experience, the expanded roster they played with Thursday included 17 such players -- including five starters.
“I don’t know what it is, especially when you have a lot” of young players, said Kent, whose double Thursday raised his average to .298 to go along with a team-high 20 home runs and 78 runs batted in. “It’s hard to influence a big group. We’ve got some good kids on the team. Don’t get me wrong, please don’t misinterpret my impressions. [But] it’s hard to translate experience.
“I don’t know why they don’t get it.”
Asked what they don’t get, Kent said: “A lot of things. Professionalism. How to manufacture a run. How to keep your emotions in it. There’s just a lot of things that go on with playing 162 games.
“But I think experience can help more than inexperience. And it’s hard to give a young kid experience.”
A team spokesman said club officials would have no response Thursday to Kent’s comments.
There has been an obvious and growing tension all season between the Dodgers’ veterans and youngsters. Publicly, at least, that discord had remained largely under control, and Kent is the only one who has spoken out on the record.
But as the Dodgers’ postseason hopes began to fade, costing both the 39-year-old Kent and 40-year-old Luis Gonzalez what could be their final shot at a second World Series, the tension has bubbled to the surface.
According to KFWB radio, at least one unnamed veteran criticized Little’s decision to start rookie Andy LaRoche at third base in the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader. LaRoche struck out three times in the 3-1 loss but rebounded with his first big-league homer Thursday.
“We’re in a bad spot right now,” Kent said of the Dodgers, whose magic number for elimination from the division race fell to three with Thursday’s loss. “Pretty soon we’re going to give up the ghost and it’s going to be painful. It’s close to the end of the season. And a career for me too. I’m running out of time. A lot of kids in here, they don’t understand that.
“I’ve played a long time. I’ve played on some really good teams. I’ve been in the World Series once. So you hate to waste an opportunity, even if it’s one and even if it’s your first time. And it’s hard to get them to understand that because they’ve haven’t been there. So there lies some frustration.”
So much frustration, Kent said, there’s a chance he may retire after the season, leaving a $9-million option for 2008, which vested Thursday, unclaimed.
“If you can get in touch with me about November, I’ll let you know,” he said. “I’m still trying to go through the emotions of the season right now to worry about the possibilities for next year.”
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