Opening Day 2011 will be the 50th Opening Day in Mets history. To honor that, around here we’ll be counting down the top 50 Mets in team history, one every weekday from now until we’ve done ‘em all. Today, #38, Robin Ventura:
My favorite memory of the 2000 Mets is Robin Ventura sliding around on the tarp at Yankee Stadium, doing a dead on impersonation of Mike Piazza after long rain delay:
“Minutes after the game was postponed, Ventura ambled out of the third-base dugout, wearing Piazza’s No. 31 jersey stuffed with towels. Ventura had used eye-black to create a Piazza-style Fu Manchu, and as the rest of the Mets hung on the dugout railing, Ventura went to work.
He let a phantom pitch go by, then called time, gesturing dramatically with his right hand. He took a mighty hack and sprinted around first before splashing into second. Ventura called time again and raced for home, where he slid and splashed some more.”
Despite being among my favorite Mets, Ventura is hurt in these rankings by three things:
1. He only played three seasons with the Mets. One was great, and two were just okay: He put up a monstrous MVP-worthy season in 1999, when he hit .301 with 32 home runs and 120 RBI, saved 33 runs in the field and won a Gold Glove — Ventura is one of just four players to have a .300/30/100 season with the Mets. He then struggled to a .232 average in 2000, and his extra base hit total fell from 70 to 48. His numbers continued to decline in 2001, when he hit .237 with 41 extra base hits. He did still manage walk, keeping his on base percentage at .348 between 2000-01, which combined with his glove kept his value above the Jeff Francoeur line.
2. Ventura hit .300 with a .471 slugging percentage in high leverage spots — the most important parts of games — in 1999, his best Mets season. Those numbers fell to .193 and a .339 slugging in 2000, and then .219/.362 in 2001. This dropped his “clutch” score to -2.4 with the Mets.
3. Despite hitting one of the greatest postseason home runs singles in Mets history, Ventura did not hit his best in the postseason, putting up a .161/.299/.287 line in 107 plate appearances between 1999 and 2000. Even if you correct for that grand slam single being an actual home run, his OPS jumps from .586 to just .620. He did draw 17 walks against just 13 strikeouts, so his struggles might have been just a fluke luck thing, but it still happened and still counts against him.