Jul 13, 2016

2000 N.L. Champion Mets Third Baseman: Robin Ventura (1999-2001)


Robin Mark Ventura was born July 14, 1967 in Santa Maria, California. The six foot one left hand hitting Ventura, was a star ballplayer at his high School in Santa Maria.

He then attended Oklahoma State University where he led the division twice in RBIs & had a 58 game hitting streak. Ventura also led his team to a National Championship game, although they lost to Stanford University.

In 1988 he was the U.S Olympics team’s third baseman, in Seoul Korea batting .409 while winning a Silver Medal. He starred in the 1988 World Cup as well, winning the Golden Spikes Award & getting named the best amateur player in the country.

Later in 1988 he was the Chicago White Sox first round draft pick (the tenth pick overall). He spent just one season in the minors, batting .278 at AAA Birmingham in 129 games, getting to the big leagues that September.

He made the 1990 Topps All Star Rookie team, although he only hit .249 with 124 hits 5 HRs 17 doubles & 54 RBIs . The next season he adjusted well to the majors hitting 23 HRs driving in 100 runs & scoring 92 runs, while batting .284. Over his ten seasons in Chicago, Ventura hit 20 or more HRs five times, drove in 90 plus runs six times, drive in over 100 twice, hit 30 plus doubles three times & 20 or more doubles six times. He batted over .280 five times,

Defensively he was one of the league’s best third baseman, winning five Gold Gloves and leading the league in put outs & assists three times each.

In 1993 the White Sox won the N.L. Western Title, as Ventura .262 with hit 22 HRs with 27 doubles 94 RBIs 101 walks posting a .379 on base & while scoring 85 runs.

Drama: That season during a game in Texas, he was hit in the ribs by a fast ball from Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan. Ventura charged the mound, but was stopped getting caught in a head lock by the 45 year old Ryan. Ventura took at least six good blows to the head from Ryan as well.

Catcher Ivan Rodriguez broke up the brawl, and Ventura was ejected from the game, taking a two game suspension. He was highly criticized for going after the popular Nolan Ryan, and was forever booed in the state of Texas.

In the 1993 post season he struggled, only batting .200 against Toronto pitching. In 1994 injuries slowed him up, but when he returned he hit well, finishing up batting .282 with 18 HRs & 78 RBIs in just 109 games.

The next two years were maybe his best overall in Chicago; batting .295 with a .384 on base % in 1995, followed career highs in HRs (34) & runs scored (95) in 1996 with 31 doubles & 105 RBIs. 

In 1997 the Sox were heavily favored to win their division, but Ventura broke his ankle in Spring Training and his loss was a big blow to the team. It was feared he’d miss the season but he did return in late July. On the night he returned he got the game winning hit & the next night he hit his first HR of the year. In just 54 games he hit 6 HRs with 26 RBIs & a .262 average.

In 1999 he was signed by the New York Mets as a free agent and enjoyed his best season, playing in all but one game on the year.

Ventura debuted with the Mets playing 3rd base & batting sixth, on Opening Day 1999 in a 6-2 loss at Florida to the Marlins. In the second inning he hit a sac fly driving in his first career Mets run. He started off the year with a ten game hit streak & drove in eleven runs during that streak. In his first month he drove in twenty runs, hit four HRs and was batting .300.

On May 12th in Colorado he drove in three runs, then as the team went to Philadelpia he hit HRs in the next two games, all leading to Mets victories. On May 12t he drove in three runs in a 10-5 Mets win at Colorado & then hit HRs in back to back games at Philadelphia.

On May 20th in a double header against the Milwaukee Brewers at Shea Stadium, Ventura went into the record books. He became the first player to ever hit grand slams in both ends of a double header.

The first blast came in the first inning of the first game against Jim Abbot. The game was a wild 11-10 Mets win that ended with Milwaukee's Alex Ochoa getting thrown out at home plate by Roger Cedeno.

In that game Mike Piazza & Benny Agbayani also hit HRs. The second grand slam came in the night cap off pitcher Horatio Estrada. It came in the 4th inning, a long shot hugging the right field foul pole, in the Mets 10-1 twin bill sweep.

On May 23rd he started a Mets come from behind win, against Curt Shilling & the Phillies down 4-0 in the bottom of the 9th. Ventura hit a two run HR, getting the comeback started.

They went on to a 5-4 win on John Olerud's RBI base hit. On June 9th with two on & two out in the bottom f the 9th inning & the Mets trailing the Toronto Blue Jays 3-0, Ventura delivered with a single bringing in two runs. the Mets won it in extra innings.

In the summer he had two separate games where he drove in six runs & hit a pair of HRs. On June 28th Ventura went to Florida, hitting two HRs while driving in six runs in the 10-4 Mets win over the Marlins. The first off of Vic Darensboug with two on in the 4th inning & the seond off Brian Meadows in the 5th, with two more on.

On July 31st when the Mets went to Wrigley Field, he hit two, two run HRs off Jon Lieber in a wild 17-10 Mets loss. At the end of July, Ventura drove in runs in ten of the last 13 games, with 22 RBIs on the month.

He went into August hitting safely in 28 of 32 games as well. On an early August Mets road trip to Milwaukee, Ventura homered in three straight games, driving in a total of six runs. On August 15th, he hit a 5th inning grand slam off the San Francisco Giants Livan Hernandez, in the Mets 12-5 win at Candlestick Park.

Three games later he hit a three run HR in a 9-1 win at San Diego. On the month he drove in another twenty runs, keeping his average up over .300. As the Mets entered September chasing the Wild Card title, Ventura started out the month with a three hit four RBI day in Houston on September 1st. He drove in runs in the next three games against Colorado as the Mets took two of three. On October 1st he singled off Pittsburgh's Scott Sauerbeck for a walk off game winning RBI, keeping the Mets within one game of the Wild Card leading Cincinnati Reds.

The Mets & Reds ended up tied at the end of the season, forcing a one game Wild Card playoff. In the Mets 5-0 win that day, Ventura had a 3rd inning RBI single off Denny Neagle, giving the Mets a 3-0 lead. In the final four games of the year he hit safely in all of them, while driving in four runs.

At the plate Ventura drove in 120 runs (8th in the NL), hit 32 HRs with 38 doubles, a .379 on base %, while batting a career high .301. He also drew 74 walks, ten intentional walks (10th in the NL), and came in 6th place in the MVP voting. He provided a lot of power batting next to Mike Piazza & Edgardo Alfonzo in the Mets powerful line up, which carried them within one game of the World Series.

Defensively, he won another gold glove, making only nine errors in 452 chances, posting a .980 fielding % (second in the NL). He led the league's third baseman in assists (320) games played at third (160) & was second in put outs.

He was part of what Sports Illustrated called " one of baseball’s best defensive infields ever assembled" along with Rey Ordonez at short, Edgardo Alfonzo at second & John Olerud at first. The infielders made the cover of SI with that head line story during the regular season.

In the clubhouse Ventura proved to be a team leader, inspiring the club with the Doors song “L.A. Woman”. He took the term ‘Mojo Rising” from the song, and made it the Mets rally cry for the stretch run. (Music Trivia: Mojo Rising was actually Jim Morrison’s name jumbled around.)

The Mets tied for the wild card with Cincinnati that season &forced a one game playoff. The game was played in Cincinnati against the Reds, Ventura had one hit and drew two walks. One of those walks came with the bases loaded as the Mets went on to a 5-0 victory advancing to the post season.

Post Season: In the NLDS against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Ventura only hit .214 (3-22) with one RBI. His moment of glory came in the NLCS against the rival Atlanta Braves.

The Mets were down three games to one, facing elimination as they battled in the bottom of the 15th inning in Game #5 at Shea Stadium. The Mets had just tied the game as Todd Pratt drew a bases loaded walk & Ventura came to bat.

The rain was falling hard & Ventura blasted a shot over the right field wall off Braves pitcher Kevin McGlinchy.

Roger Cedeno ran home & touched the plate with the winning run. As Ventura was rounding the bases, Todd Pratt got so excited getting caught up in the moment, he did not even realize it was HR. He ran over to celebrate, jumping up & down embracing Ventura. Since he failed to round the bases, Ventura was only credited with an RBI single. It became known as the “Grand Slam single”.

Overall he had just three hits in the NLCS (3-25) batting just .120. In the off season he needed knee surgery & as the 2000 season began Ventura was still recovering. Post surgery knee problems began affecting his swing.

He started the year going hitless in the two game series in Japan, against the Chicago Cubs. After a slow start, he got things going during a road trip to Pittsburgh. On April 14th, he hit his first HR of the season, it came off Jason Schmidt in an 8-5 Mets win over the Pirates. Two days later he had another six RBI day, collecting three hits & two run HR off Kris Benson, leading the Mets to a 12-9 win. Two days later when the Mets returned home, he hit a grand slam HR against Jamie Navarro & the Milwaukee Brewers, leading to a 10-7 win.

He closed out the month driving in runs in five straight games. He didn’t hit for a high average but continued to drive in runs on a constant basis. On May 21st, he tied up a game in the 8th inning at Shea with a HR off the Diamondbacks Mike Morgan. The Mets went on to beat Arizona 7-6. At the end of the month, he drove in three runs in back to back games in a series at St. Louis. In June he drove in another seven runs on a mid month road trip, including a two run HR in the regular season subway series match up, across town.

He went to Chicago & drove in two runs on June 13th & then hit a solo HR the next day in a 10-8 Mets win. This was in the midst of an eleven game hit streak, as he returned to Shea, Ventura drove in nine runs on a long Mets home stand. He struggled in July with shoulder problems causing him to miss two weeks of action. He only drove in one run that month but returned in August to hit three HRs the first week on road trips to Houston & Arizona.

He drove in 13 runs in the first two weeks of the month. On August 10th in Houston, he had a four RBI day, with a pair of doubles, in a 10-3 win over the Astros. On September 14th he hit one of three Mets HRs in a 10-5 win, his was a three run shot off Sean Spencer in Montreal. On September 29th, when the Expos came to Shea, he hit another HR driving in three more runs in a 11-2 win.

On the season his average fell off to .232 but that was mostly because of the injuries. He hit 24 HRs, with 23 doubles 109 hits 75 walks a .338 on base % & 84 RBIs.

At third base he posted a .954 fielding % (5th in the NL), while turning 27 double plays (third most in the league). His 17 errors as well as his put outs & assists were all fourth in the league.

Post Season: In the NLDS against the San Francisco Giants, he only had two hits (2-14) & drew a pair of walks. In Game #4 at Shea Stadium, he blasted a first inning, two run HR off Mark Gardner. That was the night when Bobby Jones threw his spectacular one hit shutout, as the Mets advanced to their second straight NLCS. 

In the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals, Ventura only batted .214 with just three hits (3-14) but he did drive in five runs. In Game #4 at Shea Stadium, he hit a first inning double off Daryl Kile, driving in Edgardo Alfonzo & Mike Piazza, putting New York ahead 3-2. He later added a sac fly RBI in the 8th inning of the Mets 10-6 win.

In the 2000 Subway World Series, Ventura went hitless in Game #1 & went 1-4 in Game #2. In Game #3 he hit a HR to lead off the bottom of the second inning at Shea Stadium. He later doubled, then walked in the Mets 4-2 victory. Ventura would go 3-20 in that World Series for a .150 average. Overall in the 2000 post season he had eight hits in 48 at bats, with two HRs two doubles six runs scored & eight RBIs.

In 2001 he began the year with two HRs while driving in four runs on Opening Day in Atlanta. He delivered with a two run blast off John Rocker in the 8th inning, breaking a 2-2 tie. In the 10th he broke another tie, with a game winning HR off Kelly Ligtenberg for a 6-4 win. On May 1st he hit another grand slam, this one at Shea Stadium off John Powell, helping the Mets to a 7-5 win over the Houston Astros. On May 27th, he had a four RBI day, leading the Mets to a 11-3 win over the Marlins. A nine game hit streak & a solid month got him over the .300 mark once again.

On June 14th, he hit a pair of HRs at Baltimore's Camden Yards, in the Mets 10-3 win over the Orioles. Four days later, he hit a solo HR off Mike Mussina, in the subway series, in a 2-1 Mets losing effort. Overall in June he hit eight HRs. On July 28th, he hit a walk off HR against the Phillies & former Met team mate Turk Wendell, giving New York a 4-3 win over the Phillies. In August he slumped as his average dropped to .228, he went on a five week HR drought, while driving in just four runs.

After the attacks of September 11th, he returned to hit a solo HR in the final game of the three game set in Pittsburgh in a 9-2 win. As baseball returned to New York, on September 21st, Ventura went hitless in the now famous; Mike Piazza 8th inning HR game against the Atlanta Braves.

The next night, he singled to put the Mets up 2-1 in the 4th inning, then added a solo HR in the 6th inning off Steve Reed. The Mets went on win that game as well 7-3, and come within 3.5 games of the Braves in first place. The Mets faded from the race as the month went on, Ventura ended the year hitting .237 with 21 HRs 20 doubles 61 RBIs & 88 walks posting a .359 on base %.

Ventura wasn’t hitting as the Mets had hoped, thinking that the 33 year old was winding down his career, they traded him to the AL New York club for David Justice in December 2001. 

In his Mets career Ventura had 394 hits with 77 HRs 81 doubles 265 RBIs and a .266 batting average in 444 games over three seasons. He has played at 436 games at third base, sixth on the Mets all time list.

After the Mets, with the A.L. New York club, he had a good season. He made the All Star team, hitting 27 HRs with 17 doubles 92 RBIs & a .247 average.

In 2003 he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers and finished his career there in 2004. He hit two more career grand slams that season as well. On August 29th he his 17th career grand slam, it came off Kris Benson & the New York Mets in a 10-2 Dodger win at Shea Stadium.

Ventura finished a 16 year career, batting .262 lifetime with 1885 hits, 294 HRs, 18 grand slams (fourth on the All Time list), 344 doubles 1075 walks, 132 intentional walks (64th all time) a .362 on base % & 1182 RBIs (158th all time).

At third base he played 1887 games (17th all time) posting a .958 fielding percentage (73rd all time). He made 3552 assists (21st all time) 1471 put outs (38th all time) & committed 220 errors (73rd all time). In his career Ventura was a .340 hitter with the bases loaded.

Retirement: His ankle had never fully recovered from the 1997 break and he walked with a limp actually being forced to even use a cane for a bit after his playing days ended.

He underwent an ankle allograft and after rehab from the surgery is able to be pain free & walk fine. In 2005 he returned to the White Sox as a broadcaster for a handful of games.

In 2008 he returned to Shea Stadium for the closing ceremonies of the Stadium.

Manager: In 2012, although he had never held any other managerial position at any level, he was named manager of the Chicago White Sox. In his first season his team finished second to the Detroit Tigers going 85-77 (.525%). In 2013 his team struggled finishing fifth in the AL Central, under the .500 mark at 63-99 (.389%). In 2014 his Sox were under .500 once again (73-89) finishing up on fourth place in the AL Central. In 2015 the team was in last place in mid June.

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