Saturday, July 29, 2006

Features Player: Robin Venture

Robin Mark Ventura (born July 14, 1967 in Santa Maria, California) is a former third baseman in Major League Baseball who played primarily for the Chicago White Sox. He batted left-handed and threw right-handed. An outstanding performer on both offense and defense, he became only the fifth third baseman – joining Ken Boyer, Ron Santo, Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt – to hit at least 250 home runs and win at least five Gold Glove Awards. He ranks 14th in major league history with 1887 games at third base, and his six career Gold Gloves place him behind only Robinson (16) and Schmidt (10) at his position. Baseball statistician and historian Bill James, in the 2001 revision of his Historical Baseball Abstract, chose Ventura as the greatest third baseman of the 1990s.

Ventura was selected by the White Sox in the 1988 amateur draft and made his debut the following year. After spending ten seasons with the Sox (1989-1998), he played for the New York Mets (1999-2001) and New York Yankees (2002-03) before joining the Los Angeles Dodgers late in the 2003 season. A patient hitter with a smooth stroke, Ventura was capable of reaching the fences from left-center to the right-field line. Despite a declining batting average late in his career, he continued to contribute with solid glovework, lefthanded power and plenty of walks. As a fielder, Ventura was among the premier players at his position, leading the American League four times each in double plays and total chances, three times in putouts and twice in assists; he also led the National League in assists, total chances and fielding percentage once each. Few were better at charging and fielding bunts bare-handed.

At the conclusion of the 2004 National League Division Series, with the Dodgers eliminated from contention, Ventura announced his retirement from baseball. He finished his 16-year career with a .267 batting average, 294 home runs and 1182 RBI in 2079 games. Ventura also wore knee high socks much of his career, and many will remember him as the opposing player Nolan Ryan put in a head lock.

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