Martinez Assumes Place Behind Plate On All-Time Indians Team
By Ronnie Tellalian
Now that the pitchers portion of the Indians All-Time team has been completed, we can jump into the hitters. 13 position players have been selected for this portion of the roster, one for each position, a designated hitter, and three bench players. The bench players consist of a back-up catcher, a utility infielder, and a utility outfielder. We begin with the back-up catcher and the player that most recently dawned an Indians uniform. He played the toughest position on the field, a position of leadership. He led with his bat also, hitting in the heart of the Indians order for six years, and he led the team to its only Central Division Championship since the team last won it in 2001.
Back-up Catcher: Victor Martinez
The Cleveland Indians signed Martinez out of Venezuela at the age of 17. He began his minor league career in Mahoning Valley, the Indians short season single-A team. He impressed with his offense. In 64 games that season he finished with a slash line of .277/.346/.366. In double A Kinston in 2001, Martinez led the Carolina League with a .329 batting average. For his efforts he received the Lou Boudreau Award, given to the Indians Minor League Player of the Year, and won the CL MVP award. The following season, in 2002, Martinez won the Eastern League batting title while playing for the Akron Aeros. He hit .336 on the season and won the EL MVP, beating out Trenton Thunder’s Kevin Youklis. He also saw his first Major League in 2002. As a September call-up, Martinez batted .281 in 36 Plate Appearances.
Martinez started the 2003 season in Triple-A Buffalo. In 73 games, he was batting .328/.395/.474. The Indians called him up at the end of June, and he finished the year in Cleveland hitting .289/.345/.333 in 49 games.
Changes came in 2004. Victor Martinez earned the full time catchers job, replacing the great Einar Diaz (note sarcasm and commence laughter). On the year he hit 23 home runs with 38 doubles, batted .283/.359/.492, and set a franchise record with 108 RBI by a catcher. He also made his first ever All-Star appearance, and shared the Silver Slugger Award with Ivan Rodriguez. His biggest night of the season came on July 16th. He went 5 for 5 with a walk and seven RBI, but his most memorable part of the evening were his three home runs.
Martinez kicked 2005 off with the slowest start of his career; he was batting a mere .236 at the All-Star break. He more than made up for it after he caught fire in the second half, batting .382 after the break to finish the year at .305 with 20 home runs. His torrid second half boosted an Indians club that shocked the American League with 93 wins, just missing the playoffs.
Martinez reached career highs in several categories in 2006. He batted .316, scored 82 runs, racked up 181 hits and drew 71 walks. His home runs were slightly down with only 16 on the years after hitting 20 or more in each of the previous two seasons.
The big year of the decade for both Martinez and the Indians came in 2007. The Tribe led the Major Leagues with 96 wins and came within one game of the World Series, losing the ALCS to the Boston Red Sox 4 games to 3. Martinez hit a career high 25 home runs and drove in a career high 114. He batted .301/.374/.505 and reached another career high in doubles with 40. He made his second All-Star game and finished 7th in the MVP voting. He finished ahead of teammates Grady Sizemore, CC Sabathia and Roberto Hernandez (Fausto Carmona), who also received MVP votes.
Martinez’s last year in an Indians’ uniform would be 2009. He began the season with the Tribe batting .284 with 15 home runs through 99 games and made his third All-Star game, but after the team took a 32-54 record into the All-Star break Martinez was dealt to the Boston Red Sox for pitcher Justin Masterson, pitcher Nick Hagadone, and pitcher Bryan Price.
For his Indians career, Martinez batted .297/.367/.469 with 103 home runs, 518 RBI, 413 runs scored, and 900 hits in 821 games played. He made three All-Star games, received MVP votes in four seasons, won a Silver Slugger, and all while playing catcher, one of the toughest positions on the field. He led the Indians to two 90+ win seasons and it’s first Division Title in six years. Victor Martinez was a true Indians great.