He’s been cantankerous all week -- like that’s different than any other week, but he’s really been Jeff Kent ornery and then some -- peeved at anyone who might suggest he’s doing better because Manny Ramirez is hitting behind him in the lineup.
It’s obvious, though, everyone noticing it, Kent going into Saturday night’s game hitting .500 behind Ramirez, Vin Scully mentioning it during each broadcast.
“Vin Scully talks too much,” Kent said.
Now that’s funny, the guy who normally doesn’t say much, this time saying way too much.
“You can’t say that,” I told Kent, and he said he had just spoken to 200 women (at a Dodgers function) “and I told them the same thing, and they laughed.
“We all love you, Vin,” Kent added with a mischievous grin, “but you still talk too much.”
Ran that by Scully. He had nothing to say.
NEXT WEEK, I presume, Kent will go after the Pope.
Now how would Kent know what Scully is saying? If he’s playing second base, the consummate pro that he is, why is he listening to the TV or radio? How do we know he doesn’t have Scully and Charley Steiner mixed up?
Then who has the problem?
“Scully is making the same point everyone else is making,” I said. “He says the stats indicate you are having success hitting behind Ramirez -- tell me that isn’t the case.”
“See my answer to the first question,” said Kent, and sometimes you wonder if he sleeps with his bed against a wall forcing him to always wake up on the wrong side. “Listen, I’m so tired of talking about this stuff. It diminishes my whole career and all the hard work. I take it as an insult.
“I’m 40. You don’t get better when you are 40.”
Kent’s batting average has increased by more than 20 points in the past 10 days since hitting third. Manny being Manny has rejuvenated Kent. It’s so much fun telling him that.
“It’s so pathetic,” he said. “You guys write about things happening in a week’s time. That’s why we don’t like you. Baseball is a six-month game.”
That might work if everyone was writing for their high school annual.
“What did I hit last year? Without Manny? How do you explain that? What’s my career average? What will I be hitting at the end of this season?”
Kent hit .302 last season, a miracle, the best I can surmise.
“Manny was only hitting .300 in Boston with 20 home runs,” Kent said, as a prelude to the sarcastic kicker. “And he’s doing way better than that here -- so I’m helping Manny.”
This one is so hard to figure. Kent’s a kick, both a challenge and pushover, and more often than not nothing like the public perceives the grouch.
He’s gotten along just fine with Ramirez, his former Cleveland teammate, and this doesn’t appear to have anything to do with jealousy. He hears folks talk about him batting third and hitting well as a result, and interprets that as some kind of criticism.
Some athletes motivate themselves by thinking someone is out to get them. Selecting Scully is certainly innovative.
“I’ve been here four years and I have never seen Vin Scully down here in the clubhouse,” Kent said. “How does Vin Scully know me? How does Vin Scully know Derek Lowe?”
That prompted a whelp from Lowe, loud enough so maybe Scully might hear. “Don’t get me in this one,” he said. “Make it Brad Penny, or Russell Martin. Not me. I’m just sitting here watching the steeplechase. I’m not in this one.”
THE LINE grows longer. Manager Joe Torre also disagrees with Kent.
“I think it’s helped him,” Torre said, while aware this might draw a steely glare from Kent. “Jeff is a good enough hitter in his own right, and being a good hitter he has the patience to take advantage of a pitcher who doesn’t want to walk the guy who bats ahead of Manny.”
Martin couldn’t handle the position ahead of Ramirez. “He didn’t have the patience,” Torre said, and so it’s a compliment to Kent’s skills as a hitter that he’s being asked to bat third.
Tell that to the old donkey who won’t budge on this one.
“Everyone says I’m hitting now because some guy says so on TV?” he says, and first time someone has ever called Scully “some guy.”
Oh well, time to push all his buttons, Kent ranked No. 47 on the all-time RBI list only because they walked Barry Bonds ahead of him so often.
“You write too much,” cracked Kent, who can be both funny and deadly serious in the same sentence.
“Where would you be without the opportunity in your career to hit behind Bonds and in front of Manny?”
“No question, we’re better because of Manny,” Kent said, numb now to the Page 2 teasing. “He’s given this team new life with another hitter in the middle of the lineup. But we’re also better because our young players at the top of the order are doing better. Matt Kemp is doing a great job, so it’s not just because of Manny being Manny.”
Sure. Ninth inning, Dodgers down by one, the tying run on first, Kent at the plate, Ramirez on deck, the fans on their feet screaming, and I presume Scully talking nonstop.
Ground ball, booted by the Brewers’ shortstop, runners on first and third, Manny being Manny ties it up with a sacrifice fly, and it doesn’t go this way if Kent isn’t batting third.
Hope Scully mentioned that.
T.J. Simers can be reached at email@example.com. To reach previous columns by Simers, go to latimes.com/simers