(4) Jeff Kent
STANFORD CAL BRAWL-Full of jeff kent/Milano/mcdowell/marquess (via scoobypop5)
norcalnick has more on Kent:
Full Disclosure: I had never heard of Jeff Kent before he was part of a trade that sent Matt Williams to the Indians and away from the Giants. In Cal's baseball media guide there are only a few references to Jeff Kent. In 1987 he set a Cal record (since broken by Xavier Nady) with the most doubles in a season (25). Also in 1987, Kent set, and still holds, the Cal record for the most errors in a season (34) by ANY position. Nothing would indicate a potential Hall of Famer. What Kent went on to do is have the greatest professional baseball career of any Cal graduate ever. And there is no debate. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
In 1996 Kent had 5 undistinguished seasons of baseball under his belt. He was averaging around 24 HRs per year and hitting about .275. A solid everyday major leaguer, but hardly a star. When my 11 year old self heard about the trade, I was none too pleased. You're trading away Matt Williams?! Sure, Matty was getting older, but he jacked 43 bombs in the strike year! He hit .336 in 1995! You're an idiot Sabean!
Brian Sabean, in his first year as general manager of the Giants, was so widely criticized for the move that he famously defended himself to the media by saying, "I am not an idiot."
Jeff Kent proceeded to prove that Brian Sabean wasn't an idiot (yet, at least) by having perhaps the greatest statistical stretch a 2nd baseman has had in the history of baseball. In his 6 years as a Giant he averaged 29 home runs and 115 RBIs, he defense improved, he won an MVP and he combined with frenemy Barry Bonds to terrorize National League pitching. He would finish his career with the most home runs by a 2nd baseman ever.
Unfortunately Jeff Kent is also a world class jerk. That he and world class jerk Barry Bonds combined to lead the Giants to so much success from '97-'02 is all the proof you need that hack writers like Bruce Jenkins don't know what they're talking about when they write about how critical "clubhouse chemistry" is for success on the diamond.
This blog post will give you the quick run down of all of the individuals, teams, groups, cities and ethnicities/sexual orientations that Jeff Kent has angered in some fashion. Plus he betrayed San Francisco to become a Dodger, which trumps all of the other evil he's perpetuated.
But in the end Jeff Kent is a gritty, talented play with career accomplishments that could rank him as perhaps the greatest 2nd baseman in history. Remember him on the field, and not off it.
(13) Steve Birnbaum
LEastCoastBears and Bearly Legal introduce Steve Birnbaum
Steve Birnbaum led the Bears to the NCAA Elite Eight in Men's Soccer. 2nd overall pick in the 2014 MLS Super Draft.
First Cal Bears to start a game for the US Men's National Team since '93 and likely to be a mainstay on the team for years.
Captain of the Elite 8 team, and led the team in goals... as a central defender (!!) no less.
Birnbaum's all-around play as a central defender with the ability to score goals has transcended his time at California to impress teammates and coaches at all levels, from the pros at DC United (where he was named a finalist for MLS Rookie of the Year) and USMNT Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who named Birnbaum to the senior team. Birnbaum immediately impressed his coaches with his steady and solid back line play, and with time should provide some much needed stability in that area of the pitch for the USMNT.
Even more importantly, Birnbaum's leadership of extremely successful Cal Men's Soccer sides has cemented his legacy in Berkeley. His teams reached near-unprecedented levels of success, culminating in both a nearly two-month stint as the nation's top team and in an Elite 8 appearance in 2013. It is for that leadership that Birnbaum's impact will be felt the most.