SAN ANTONIO -- Head for Austin, Texas, on Interstate 35, and you can't miss it. On the north side of town, your eye catches a sign, "Yamaha of San Antonio." Inside a huge building stocked with sleek motorcycles and assorted gear, the owner and CEO was conducting a business meeting for what has become his passion.
There are no trappings to suggest he's a prominent baseball player, but Jeff Kent has made it obvious over the years that the game isn't his love. It's merely a means to an end, and the $77 million-plus he has earned since 1992 as a major leaguer has helped him acquire a large ranch and two Kent Powersports dealerships, with more on the way.
It's reason enough to understand why he's considering opting out of a contract to play ball at age 40 with the Dodgers next year, leaving him 35 homers shy of 400 and 41 RBIs short of 1,500 as the most offensively prolific second baseman in history.
Had the Dodgers won the World Series this season, the point would have been moot. He would have ridden quietly into the Texas sunset -- on a motorbike, of course. Instead, the club went into a dive down the stretch, going 7-19 shortly after the All-Star break and ending an 82-80 season with three wins in the last 15 games.
It left Kent unfulfilled. He was the Dodgers' leading hitter (.302) and power source (20 homers), but his frustration was released in a verbal attack that blamed management for playing too many youngsters when more experience was needed, the opposite of the situation that sank the Giants.
Kent's brutal honesty got him in trouble. He was chastised by some Los Angeles media, but management apparently agreed change was necessary. Joe Torre was hired as manager, and the club is pursuing free agents such as Alex Rodriguez, Andruw Jones and Torii Hunter, as well as coveted Florida third baseman Miguel Cabrera, whom the Marlins reportedly are shopping.
The Torre hiring has Kent leaning toward a return; he'll announce a decision soon. He contends deposed manager Grady Little was too easy on some of the kiddie corps and is enthused that ex-Yankees coaches Don Mattingly and Larry Bowa also are heading west.
"What I'm really happy about is Joe bringing in Don, who I've heard great things about, and Larry," Kent said. "I've known Larry for many, many years. He's a guy who has a lot of fire in him.
"He holds players accountable for how they play, a butt-kicker that some of the young guys need. He's professional and businesslike. Having those guys around on a team that needs to be coached is great."
Torre recently had a phone conversation with Kent, telling reporters: "I felt pretty upbeat and pretty positive that he was looking forward to coming back next season, and I hope that's the case."
Kent made no commitment to Torre, merely giving his input on the roster, but he is encouraged by the recent changes and said of his season-ending vent: "I was frustrated and thinking if they didn't make any changes, I maybe wouldn't come back.
"I have the fire to win, but I don't have the fire to suffer like we did down the stretch. I felt healthy and got back in the lineup in September, but it just didn't happen for us. We should have done it this year. We had the best team in July."