After watching Yangervis Solarte play third base exceptionally, I remembered the last person to defend the hot corner for the Yankees. After all, who can forget Alex Rodriguez, shrouded in infamy? Then I tried to recall who the Yankees had before A-Rod, and struggled to figure out the athlete. With the help of the internet, I discovered that aside from Aaron Boone, Robin Ventura played a season and a half with the Yankees (2002-mid 2003).
Younger fans (my high school self included), might know Ventura as the manager for the Chicago White Sox. More experienced baseball fans will note Ventura’s extremely successful career as a player for the White Sox, with multiple Gold Glove awards, his ridiculous grand slam single during the 1999 NLCS for the Mets, and an absurd 58-game hitting streak in college at Oklahoma State University. Only human computers know that Ventura played in 230 games for the Yankees, with 36 total home runs and 135 RBI.
In fact, Ventura had a great year in 2002. After hopping boroughs from Queens, Ventura proceeded to bash 27 homers. He worked the count well, taking ball four 90 times. He drove in runners, 93 of them to be exact. But even though his once solid glove was admittedly dodgy that season (23 errors, his most since 1992), he earned his second All-Star berth (his first was also 1992). During the postseason, Ventura drove in 4 runs in a four-game ALDS loss to the eventual World Champion Los Angeles Angels.
The next season, Ventura’s glove returned, but his batting immediately declined. Through 89 games, the 35-year-old third baseman had only 9 homers, on pace for his lowest total in a non-shortened season. The Yankees, looking at his salary and his performance, shipped Ventura at the deadline for prospects Bubba Crosby (career .216 hitter) and Scott Proctor (home run prone relief pitcher). The Yankees would later trade for Cincinnati third baseman Aaron Boone, now a folk hero after his dramatic home run against the archrival Red Sox in the ALCS. However, Robin Ventura would only play one more season until he retired after the 2004 season.
Nevertheless, the veteran had a dazzling career, replete with awards and many memorable moments. His career numbers are outstanding: 1006 runs, 1885 hits, 294 homers, 1182 RBI, and 1075 base on balls. Despite his lack of a WS title, Ventura will always be remembered as one of the best third sackers of the 1990s.