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Kent knows the game and is not about to play it

August 01, 2007|T.J. SIMERS

Jeff Kent, who is almost as old as you can be to still play this game, batted .447 during the month of July and had a monster home run in Houston, so I asked him before Tuesday night's game if he would take a drug test.

He poured out a bottle of water, and then offered to fill it on the spot, but I explained I was concerned about HGH and that would require a blood test.

"How about I fill the bottle and then spit blood in it," Kent said, and I've heard about 'roid rage, but how would you ever tell with Kent?

Kent is batting .305, and at his age and the way things are going these days in baseball, that raises questions, so I went to Barry Bonds, told him what Kent has been doing recently and asked Bonds if he thought Kent should be drug tested?

Bonds looked at me with a dazed look, and it got me wondering if he has ever been drug tested.

I asked about Kent again and told Bonds, "it's not that tough of a question," but he said, "I don't ever answer questions."

"That's not true," I said. "We talked twice last season and both times you answered questions." Just think how many fun Q & A sessions we would have if we spent an entire season together.

Bonds said he has kids and he doesn't like to argue with adults, and while I have no idea what that meant, I told him I had kids too. I thought about asking if he'd like to exchange phone numbers, get all the kids together and maybe arrange a meeting at Chuck E. Cheese, but he seemed a little distracted.

I told Bonds I'd give him a day to think about it and check back before tonight's game. I got the impression he couldn't wait.

I joined Grady Little's pregame chat and asked if Kent should be drug tested, and he said, "this guy can hit." I'm not sure if Little was talking about Kent's average, or Kent's reaction to being asked to take a drug test.

WHAT ABOUT Bonds -- once he passes Hank Aaron, I asked Little, "will the home run record be tainted?"

"I don't think so; that's a lot of home runs," Little said, and I asked him if he was telling the truth, and he said, "about 95%."

Then he said something about Bonds "carrying the torch through his entire career," and "pitchers were taking the same stuff he was doing" and yet Bonds was still hitting all those home runs.

That seemed to suggest that Little has Bonds pegged as a steroid user, and when I pointed that out, Little said, "No. I said if he was, then there was a good chance other players in the game were too, and some of them were probably pitchers."

I guess it's all right then if everybody in baseball has been on the stuff, making it a level playing field, which brought me back to Kent. How has he kept pace with all the drug users?

Now if you know Kent, he's rough and tough, getting a flat tire on the 210 earlier in the day and changing it himself, skinning his right knee and doing his best with a bum left hamstring.

But when I mentioned HGH, teasing him about doing well and then trying to explain why, which has become baseball's new occupational hazard, he said, "They tell me you have to stick yourself with a needle every week if you're gonna be on that stuff, and I couldn't do that." I thought he was going to cry when he mentioned the idea of sticking himself with a needle every day.

But what about sticking it to Bonds, I wondered. Would he shake Bonds' hand when Bonds approaches second base after hitting the record-breaker?

"No," Kent said, "and that has nothing to do with the person breaking the record. I wouldn't shake his hand out of respect for this game. I don't go behind the batting cage before a game and gab with opposing players. I don't fraternize.

"A few years ago a magazine said I was one of the unfriendliest players in the game, but when a player hits a home run, he is hurting my team. I don't care if it's home run No. 1 or No. 756, it's going to hurt our team and I'm not going to be happy about that."

Bonds and Kent were teammates in San Francisco. They were baseball's most dynamic duo for a period of time, and also infamously at odds.

"We have a professional relationship," Kent said, and for three years now we have talked about just about everything, and given every chance to shred Bonds, Kent has never done so. "We weren't friendly off the field, but we played well together. I don't have any hatred or bitterness toward Barry."

But when Bonds becomes baseball's all-time home run hitter, will the record be tainted? Kent, who has been reluctant to say anything about Bonds recently for fear of it being taken out of context, chose his words carefully.

"I read the book, 'Game of Shadows,' played with Barry for six years and watched his performance for maybe the last 10 years. I'm watching him every day, know all the speculation, the grand jury investigation and I think it's just sad that the major league home run record is going to be broke and there is going to be a shadow of doubt when it's all over."

That's when Kent reached for the bottle once again, and began taking off his pants. It got me to leave, and I thought I might mention it later to Bonds, who is always looking to get rid of reporters, but I've got a feeling no matter what anyone says to Bonds, he's going to remain zipped for the rest of his career.

--

T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers @latimes.com. To read previous columns by Simers, go to latimes.com/simers.

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