Hallspotting will look at candidates for the Baseball Hall of Fame leading up to the 2010 election. The candidates will range from serious to semi-serious, and even if they don't stand a chance, at least it's a swell opportunity to remember any indelible marks their career may have made.
I'm not sure why I picked Robin Ventura for the inaugural installment of Hallspotting, other than his first time on the ballot will be this winter. His case isn't that impressive, given how he was just short on many milestones that would still be deemed unworthy. He doesn't even have 2,000 hits or 300 home runs. His best stats are trivial ones:
• Grand slams (18, tied for fourth with Willie McCovey and behind Lou Gehrig, Eddie Murray and Manny Ramirez)
• Gold Gloves (six, tied for fourth with Eric Chavez and Buddy Bell; behind Brooks Robinson, Mike Schmidt and Scott Rolen)
Both of those stats are derived from circumstance, which pretty much sums up Ventura's career. He played in every big market city (Chicago, New York, Los Angeles) and nowhere else. In his first full season with the White Sox in 1990, he finished seventh in the Rookie of the Year voting. He improved much in '91 but was overshadowed by a hip young DH named Frank Thomas, and that would be the microcosm of his time with the White Sox.
He signed with the Mets as a free agent in 1999, capping the keystone for perhaps the best defensive infield in history (that team set an NL record for fewest errors in a 162-game season with 68, later matched by the Rockies in 2007).
It's also worth mentioning that in 1999 he would've had a 19th career grand slam had his teammates not come out to celebrate his walkoff home run in Game 5 of the NLCS against the Braves by mobbing him near second base, and as a result the homer counted only as a single.
And it takes luck and opportunity, not skill, to be part of the most prominent trade ever between the Yankees and Mets, when he was swapped for David Justice after the 2001 season — a trade straight out of a fantasy GM's playbook. But an injury from 1997 all but killed his ankle, and continued to deteriorate his mobility until his quiet but dignified retirement in 2004 with the Dodgers.
As a postscript to his career, he cured his hurty foot by having a cadaver's ankle implanted into him, and he no longer limps or even feels pain. Perhaps the next time a ballplayer has a catastrophic accident causing a foot injury, they can make a comeback by undergoing Robin Ventura surgery.
Or maybe "Robin Ventura Surgery" will always be known as this:
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