Marte Simply A Victim Of Circumstances?

Andy Marte

Thus far in his brief time with the Indians, Andy Marte has been a victim of circumstances. A year ago when he thought he should make the big league club coming out of spring training, he really had no realistic opportunity due to the presence of veteran third baseman Aaron Boone and the fact the Tribe mistakenly thought they were going to be a contender in the AL Central and for the World Series.

Marte, who had been acquired from the Red Sox as the key player in a multi-player trade on Jan. 27, 2006, was told point blank that he was headed to Buffalo to begin the year. He didn't take kindly to his return to the Class AAA level and his early-season performance for the Bisons reflected his disappointment.

Marte didn't homer until his 118th at-bat and at this time a year ago was hitting under .250 for manager Torey Lovullo's club.

When it became obvious around the All-Star break that the team had virtually no chance of making the playoffs and that a struggling Boone would not be back in 2007, the Indians finally gave Marte the chance he had been craving.

He responded by hitting just .226 in 50 games with five homers and 23 RBI, certainly not the type of numbers the Indians had anticipated when trading for one of the most highly-touted young third basemen in all of baseball.

Still, the Indians saw enough both offensively and defensively to name him their starting third baseman heading into the '07 season.

Unfortunately for Marte, he once again became the victim of circumstances.

It turns out that Marte has a very difficult time playing in cold weather, something which the Indians saw plenty of in April. Marte not only struggled at the plate, but he had a very difficult time fielding even the routine grounders.

The hamstring strain he suffered on April 22 looked like it might be a "convenience" injury, one that would allow the team to send him back to Buffalo to get his problems worked out. He was hitting just .179 at the time of the injury.

Marte didn't exactly turn things around with the Bisons, but there's an age-old belief that a player should not lose his job due to injury. Thus, when Marte's hamstring healed, the decision was made to bring him back up to the major league club and platoon at third base.

It turned out to be a very brief return as he was once again the victim of circumstances.

With the Indians having one of the best records in all of baseball, they can ill-afford to go with a struggling youngster at third base. Add in the fact that versatile Casey Blake has been hitting well and playing solid defense at the hot corner, and there was going to be very little opportunity for Marte to prove himself.

So Marte is back at Buffalo, where he will get the opportunity to play on an everyday-type basis. It could be an extended stay.

The next three months will go a long way in determining if Marte will have a future with the Cleveland Indians.

If he goes down to Buffalo and pouts, similar to what Brandon Phillips did when he was initially sent back to Triple-A after being handed the starting second base job in 2003, Marte could quickly find himself in the doghouse.

But if he is mentally strong, accepts the demotion and responds accordingly, then he could have a future with this organization.

As it stands now, the Indians have two very good third base prospects in their organization. Wes Hodges, who was the team's second-round draft choice in 2007, and Jared Goedert, who was a ninth-round selection a year ago, both look to have the potential to be major-leaguers.

Both will likely need at least two more years of grooming before they will be major league-ready, meaning Marte probably has only 2008 and 2009 to prove himself.

Marte's offensive problems are compounded by the fact that unless global warming affects Northeast Ohio very soon, he will have to find a way to deal with cold weather every spring. And, as we found out during the World Series a decade ago, snow is not out of the question in late October, either.

The Indians can ill-afford to have a third baseman who can't adapt to his environment.

One has to wonder if Marte, who originally signed with the Atlanta Braves before being traded to the Red Sox, will ever be able to overcome all of the circumstances which currently exist.

Unlike the lowly Kansas City Royals, who have luxury of playing highly-touted Alex Gordon despite his offensive struggles, the Indians have their sites set on being a yearly contender.

And if that's the case, Marte might find himself with his fourth organization, one with lower expectations than the Braves, Red Sox and Indians, before he gets a chance to prove himself.

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