As the Indians plunge deeper into the depths of the American League Central standings, NASA is plotting new ways to explore the vast expanses of space. Forty years after the Apollo 11 mission brought man to the moon, NASA is planning to create a lunar base that would allow a human to remain on the moon's surface for up to six months. The hope is to have this base completed by 2025, about the same time A-Rod's current contract runs out.
Between the talk of the lunar base and the persistent hope that man will someday venture to Mars, it's a great time for young children to dream of one day becoming astronauts. And it's a job particularly pleasing for those who wish to avoid awkward breakups. Astronauts, after all, are the only people who can tell their significant others, "I just need some space," and actually mean it. Let's explore your Tribe-related questions, shall we? My friends and I have been talking about the Trade Deadline and the Indians possibly having to give up either Cliff Lee or Victor Martinez. If you had to choose, which guy would you rather trade? -- Tim M., Mount Vernon, Ohio That's as tough a question as there is, and the Indians' decision-makers are asking themselves questions along these same lines right about now. It's pretty much a given that they won't be able to keep both players beyond their 2010 option years. Heck, they might not even be able to keep one of them. So the Tribe has to at least be open to listening to offers for Lee and Martinez here at the Trade Deadline and in the coming offseason. The Indians don't want to sacrifice all hope of contending in 2010, but they also don't want to be blind to the long-term help that a trade of Lee or Martinez could provide them. It doesn't get much more valuable than a top-of-the-rotation lefty with a Cy Young under his belt. The amount of money thrown at CC Sabathia over the winter is a reflection of that. So if you remove all emotion and financial reality from the equation, the Indians are probably better off courting Lee for the long haul and trading Martinez. But if you're realistic about the situation -- and the Indians have to be -- it's very difficult to imagine them locking up Lee beyond 2010. While Lee says all the right things about the team that briefly demoted him to Triple-A in 2007, I simply don't see him giving them a steep "hometown discount" to stay here. Martinez, on the other hand, has a genuine love for this organization. When he told reporters at the All-Star Game that he'd like to retire as a member of the Indians, it was not just lip service. I think the Indians do have a realistic chance of retaining him beyond 2010. But in doing so, they'd be embracing the inevitable downturn in performance that is sure to come from a catcher who, in the midst of a multiyear deal, would be entering his mid-30s. And if they keep him to play first base, that could potentially cut into the playing time available to a guy like Matt LaPorta, depending on how the outfield shakes out. Basically, I don't think there are any easy answers for the Indians here. If they trade Lee and/or Martinez, it won't be a popular move with an already frustrated fan base. But when you look at the long-term ramifications of dishing out the money it would take to keep one or both of these guys, they could hamper the rest of the ball club. Isn't it time to get a look at LaPorta on a near-daily basis, to see if he is ready to start next year as our starting left fielder or first baseman? -- Chris W., Columbus The Indians believe LaPorta is already capable of handling the corner outfield at the Major League level. So they have him playing first base regularly at Columbus to improve his -- say it with me now -- versatility. When you consider that Michael Brantley is on the rise and could eventually slot into left field and that first baseman Ryan Garko is arbitration-eligible after this season, it's pretty obvious why the Indians value LaPorta's ability to play first. But if you ask me, I think the time is now to get LaPorta's bat into the big-league lineup and let him get comfortable at this level, even if the bulk of his time comes in left. What are the plans with Andy Marte? He is having a great season in Triple-A and is only 25 years old. Should the Indians trade Jhonny Peralta and give Marte a real shot? -- Luis S., Valencia, Venezuela The organizational opinion of Marte has certainly improved, but there's still an air of mystery as to whether or not the Indians will give him another real shot in the big leagues. For now, they are content to let Peralta try to hash out his performance issues on a daily basis, while Marte continues to tear up International League pitching. "He's clearly put his career on track," general manager Mark Shapiro said of Marte. "I think he has a future in the big leagues. The definitive course for that return here or anywhere else is uncertain. He's put himself back in the discussions here and opened some eyes." That includes eyes from outside the organization. If the Indians called up Marte, they couldn't send him back down without exposing him to waivers, and he'd certainly be claimed. Perhaps the Indians are exploring whether there's a market for Marte's services. As for trading Peralta, I don't see it happening. His trade value has diminished with his punchless '09, and the Indians are on the hook to pay him $4.6 million next year. If you're wondering why they continue to stick it out with Peralta, rather than benching him and giving Marte a long look, that's one reason why. Can Wedge and Marte coexist, or is Wedge afraid that Marte will attract bears and put the organization in jeopardy? -- Ryan M., Parma Heights, Ohio I know we already discussed Marte, but the Inbox doesn't let a good "Anchorman" reference pass by unnoticed.
Is Victor hurt? I've looked back at when he fouled that pitch off his knee, and since then he's batted about .200. -- Tom H., Garfield Heights, Ohio When he left that May 31 game against the Yankees after fouling a Sabathia pitch off his left knee, Martinez was batting .350 with a .970 OPS and 23 extra-base hits in 197 at-bats. Ever since, he's hit .201 with a .651 OPS and 11 extra-base hits in 149 at-bats. Martinez says he's healthy, and the Indians say he's healthy. If the knee is still bothering him and has led to this obvious slide in production, it wouldn't be the first time this club -- or any club -- has hidden an injury for competitive reasons. Nor would it be the first time Martinez has played through pain to the detriment of his performance. On the other hand, this could just be a prolonged slump for a player who started the season on a hot streak and a team leader who is feeling the burden of his team's bad season. Can you give an update about Shin-Soo Choo's military service requirement? I just really hope we don't lose the most consistent player on our roster, nor do I want to lose the rain of "Chooooo" filling the stadium when he homers or throws a man out at second from the corner of the outfield. -- Mike K., Akron, Ohio Choo is as likely to leave the States to join the South Korean military as you and I, Mike. As I've written several times before, this is not an issue that should concern Tribe fans. And finally... From one Anthony to another, I took my family to Saturday's game against the Mariners, arriving at the park at 5:30 p.m. ET, only to be told that we couldn't go to our seats until 6:00 p.m. When I asked the friendly workers at The Jake, er, The Prog, what the deal was, they said they didn't know, had just heard about it themselves, and that it would remain this way for the rest of the season. So what's the deal? -- Anthony I., Decatur, Ind. It appears some Progressive Field staffers were either not adequately informed of or did not adequately explain the Indians' new policy for gate times. In the past, fans attending Saturday games could enter all gates at 5:30 p.m., which is shortly after the Indians' batting practice wraps up. Now, fans can enter Gate C at 4:30 p.m., which allows you to watch BP, with all other gates opening at 6 p.m. It's the same policy that had already been in effect for weekday games, so it's now a uniform policy for all 7:05 p.m. starts. The friendly workers should have directed you to Gate C.
Have a question about the Indians?
E-mail your query to MLB.com Indians beat reporter Jordan Bastian for possible inclusion in a future Inbox column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.