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Indians Indians Archive Space For Rent: Third Base
Written by Nino Colla

Nino Colla

marteCredible journalism comes into question with the fact that I don’t have a solid quote to back it up, but I’m pretty sure I remember Manny Acta saying he wanted as close to a set-lineup as humanly possible.

It might have been in one of the many interviews he did after being hired as the manager of our Cleveland Indians, in fact it probably was. I remember watching or reading just about every single one of them.

The thing is, Acta doesn’t have to say it for it to be true. Every single manager in the major leagues would like a set lineup of nine All-Stars.

Okay I’m pretty sure Acta did say that at one point.

What Acta would settle for is nine guys he could slot into both the same defensive position and spot in the lineup on a routine basis. We all know that with the Cleveland Indians, especially in the second half of a season that hasn’t gone right, that even that is next to impossible.

Is it time for Manny Acta to regret the words that I’m blindly crediting him with? Or is this merely something out of his control?

I’d say a little bit of both.

I don’t think the Tribe’s skipper has had an easy task of trying to juggle the names he’s been given, especially post-trade deadline. You throw in more injuries on top of it all and that would be one reason that Trevor Crowe is hitting fifth in a lineup that has Jordan Brown also hitting clean-up.

Take this second to cringe if you will.

‘Tis the season to find out what we got though, right? I’m at the party that supports giving the youngsters a chance to show what they can do at this juncture of the season. You need to find a happy medium though.

Yes, you need to give young players a chance and yes you need to give people a shot to show you what they have. But you also need some sort of stability.

Acta needs to eat his imaginary words because he’s totally botched the situation he’s been handed at third base. Is it ideal to have three names on a rotation for one spot? No, but he certainly could have found a better way to handle it.

After the Jhonny Peralta-era mercifully ended, the Indians were left with no immediate answer to the hot corner. They could have called up hot-hitting Jared Goedert who has been torching Triple-A and Double-A pitching this season, but his defense has left much to be desired.

Goedert’s glove may have held him back for now, but if you consider the fact that Lonnie Chisenhall is at least a little under a year away from realistically being ready for the major leagues, Goedert will get his fair opportunity to prove his numbers up to this point are no flash in the pan.

The only other third baseman on the 40-man roster, the last time I checked, happens to be everyone’s favorite, Andy Marte. Now if giving Marte a few months to be a stop-gap at third is one good idea, giving two other guys who have minimal experience at the position seems to be another one.

I’m not a Marte hater, in fact I often root for the kid because quite honestly, it’s fun. Is there anything likable about the kid? No, not really. Has he ever demonstrated the ability to hit major league pitching consistently? No, but has he really been given the chance? Sure he has, but has it ever been an honest to goodness, you take this job, it is yours, show us what you got?

Chronicle the journey of Andy Marte and you will see many stints with the Cleveland Indians. Many opportunities given, many home runs hit with Triple-A clubs in Buffalo and Columbus, and many excuses.

But has anyone ever sat down and examined just how real of a shot Marte has received in Cleveland to be consistent? Sure he hasn’t been consistent with the glove or with the bat, but he’s shown flashes with both. The glove more so than the bat, but what is so wrong with giving someone more than 50 games to prove themselves?

2006 – July 28th to October 1st

49 Games Started: .226 AVG, .287 OBP, 5 HR, 23 RBI

This stint was essentially a two month audition after the club had acquired him in the offseason. Marte was 22-years-old and it was his first and now longest starting reign at third base in the big leagues. Marte had taken over for Aaron Boone who was benched after starting the year as the Indians primary third baseman.

2007 – April 2nd to April 22nd

12 Games Started: .179 AVG, .220 OBP, 1 HR, 8 RBI

Out of spring, Marte was blindly handed the job at third base. Casey Blake was moved around the diamond to accommodate the opportunity the Indians were giving the young 23-year-old from the Dominican. Marte suffered an injury, Blake took over at third, and the rest of the 2007 was history.

2008 – April 6th to July 13th

22 Games Started: .177 AVG, .217 OBP, 1 HR, 2 RBI

Essentially a bench player, Andy Marte was not used very much and when he was, he didn’t produce offensively. Things started to look grim for him at this juncture.

2008 – July 18th to September 23rd

46 Games Started: .244 AVG, .293 OBP, 2 HR, 15 RBI

Like in 2006, with the Indians out of the race, the club cleared third base for their third baseman of the future to once again try and becoming the third baseman of the present for the third season in a row. Casey Blake was dealt to Los Angeles and Marte was given his shot yet again to prove he could stick. Sub-par results to say the least.

2009 – July 28th to October 4th

44 Games Started: .232 AVG, .293 OBP, 6 HR, 25 RBI

Progress is made, but it needs to be noted that this stint with the Indians was at first base, not third. With Jhonny Peralta at third full-time, the Indians decided to give Marte his shot at first. This stint came after he spent the first half of 2009 in Triple-A Columbus putting up numbers that the Indians expected him to put up with the big league club when they acquired him from Boston.

At the beginning of 2009, the Indians designated Marte for assignment, clearing him from the 40-man roster and giving 29 other clubs the opportunity to take a chance on him. None of them bit and Marte returned to the Indians. To his credit, he worked hard to not only return to the majors, but win a starting spot with Columbus His hot play wasn’t anything the club could keep down anymore and he finished with a 16 home runs, 17 doubles, and 60 RBI in 96 games.

Now we are at the present, Marte came into 2010 as a bench player. He’s 26 and when you look back at the past five years, his longest period of starting at one position was back in 2006 and it was only 49 games.

Is that a legitimate opportunity for any ball-player to establish themselves? Go ahead and throw in someone as shell-shocked as Marte who is probably waiting to be yanked at any second because he probably thinks the club has little to no faith in him.

Baseball is a game of repetition and to be successful you need to be consistent. It is hard to get consistent when you don’t have the opportunity to be repetitive. This is one small example, but you don’t have to look any further than the two games against Seattle this past weekend.

Marte gets a start, at first base mind you, on Friday. The next day, he’s back in the lineup, but at third. What exactly is Acta looking for?

"[Marte] hasn't been consistent," Acta said. "That's the reason we're trying to give more than one guy a chance over there. None of those guys have stepped up and claimed the job, plain and simple."

Manny Acta has been waiting for someone to step up at third and he is looking for someone to be consistent. However it goes back to those words that I’m pretty sure he said after he got hired here. How can you expect someone to be consistent at a position they are not playing consistently?

2010 – July 28th to August 8th

4 Games Started: .231 AVG, .375 OBP, 1 HR, 3 RBI

In that span he actually played in eight games, but he only started four. Marte played third base on Thursday, had two hits and that presumably gave Acta the idea to play him again on Friday, anyway he could.

Giving Matt LaPorta a breather was needed, so I’m sure Acta thought to himself, let’s keep Marte in the lineup and get Luis Valbuena an opportunity. For the most part, Marte has been a reliable glove at third base, up until Saturday night of course.

Two errors in the same inning, one foolish, another one not an easy play and now everyone is sick of him, right? The first error being the tough one to make, perhaps something he couldn’t get out of his mind when he made the second error. This is by no means an excuse, but I again go back to consistency. How do you expect someone to be consistent at third base if they started at first base the previous night, and before that, made their first start at third in three days?

How about the other players that are in this “rotation” at third base? How are they fairing?

Going into Sunday, Luis Valbuena has played in nine games, started eight since the Peralta trade. He’s hit .172 with three RBI. He hasn’t started two straight games at all during this period, so again, how exactly is someone to show consistency when they aren’t given consistent at-bats?

That is probably the last time you will see me defend Luis Valbuena, just for the record.

Jayson Nix hasn’t been too bad with the bat since the Peralta trade; he’s hitting .282 with a .326 on-base percentage, two home runs and four RBI prior to Sunday’s game. Not stellar by any means but he’s started 11 games, but unlike Valbuena, he actually has received consecutive starts.

The big downfall with Nix and even Valbuena has been the defense. Marte is the best third baseman of the bunch, two errors in one inning aside, Nix and Valbuena are not third baseman by trade.

Nix has struggled with the position. He committed eight errors in 19 starts with Chicago earlier this year and has committed three in just seven starts with the Indians. Valbuena meanwhile has committed one error in four starts, but he hasn’t exactly passed the eye-test either.

I think the best course of action that Acta could have taken is individually giving each player a consistent shot at third. If you want consistency from a position, you should consistently play someone there. Give one player the first shot, more than four games, and see what they do. I know I said more than 50 games is needed for a reasonable assessment for someone, but when you are working with three people and you don’t have as big of a window, you have to make an exception.

Besides, the Lonnie Chisenhall countdown is well underway. There is a reason that the person who takes over for third, eventually, is going to be just a stop-gap.


You can follow Nino on Twitter @TheTribeDaily where he often tweets about his parties with Andy Marte and sometimes about the Indians.

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