On Tuesday night, Starling Marte will play his first game in a Pirates uniform since his steroid suspension in April. Since losing their Gold Glove outfielder, the club has been able to tread water in National League Central despite being four games under .500. The general reaction of most will be to boo Marte when he steps to the plate for the first time since April 17th. While this country allows you to voice your displeasure freely, let ?s take a look at the situation as a whole.
When Marte was popped for a 50 game ban back in April, he tested positive for Nandrolone. As most of you know, Nandrolone isn ?t a rogue ingredient in a supplement from GNC. This is probably about as old school as you can get in the steroid game. Hell, the Soviets were juicing with it when they were dominating everyone in the Olympics as early as the 1960 ?s.
How do you think the Steelers were able to maintain such level of dominance during the 1970 ?s? Yep, Nandrolone. Here ?s a question: would you boo them? If Steve Courson were still alive, God rest his soul, would you jeer him if you saw him in public because he used steroids? Let ?s say, heaven forbid for some yinzers morality, Joe Greene was on some illegal drug the Steelers’ doctor got from the Russians. It wouldn’t be to far fetch to imagine, as the Hall of Famer did play through numerous injuries during the team ?s Super Bowl run. No Steeler fan would talk ill on the most lovable figure in team history even if he was juicing. So why the double standard? Oh yeah, Marte was caught red handed; no professional sports league tested for steroids in the 1970 ?s.
And that ?s the only problem with Marte using steroids in my opinion. It’s not the fact that he did performing enhancing drugs, it is the fact that he failed a drug test and cost the Pirates 80 games. Sure he ?s a drug cheat by definition, but hey, he tried to improve his production with a little help. I mean, who hasn’t cheated in something in their life. Please cast the first stone. The old saying goes, ?If you ain ?t cheating, you ain ?t trying. ? Obviously not the most moral look on life, but the morality in sports died a long time ago when it became a billion dollar industry.
Let ?s be honest, PEDs make the game better. I really don ?t care if an athlete gets busted for PEDs. What are they trying to do, enhance their performance right? So at the same time isn’t the athlete in the right for trying to be the best they can be for the fans? Some people might bring up the fact these guys are looked up to by kids and steroid use obviously doesn’t send a great message. Just remember, no one told these guys they had to be role models when they became a professional ballplayer. Some try to walk that straight arrow, which is a noble endeavor, but they are not required to be an example to kids. Athletes should come with a disclaimer: will do amazing things, eventually will disappoint.
Marte has done just that in his short Pirates career: amaze and disappoint. For this team to try and keep pace in this division, they will need their Dominican outfielder back to his old self in as short as time as possible. One respected columnist the city last week suggested the Pirates should trade their All-Star with his value still being high. While most of the column turned into a borderline racist anthology about all Latin ballplayers being dirt poor before they are signed by a major league club, he did bring up a fair point. Marte would bring back some quality pieces, possibly even more than Andrew McCutchen despite his recent tear. And who wouldn’t want him at the price? An average of $10.5 million for 4 years is a steal for a player the caliber of Marte. Even with the occasional lackadaisical play he shows at times, every team would want to take a shot at him. But Neal Huntington isn’t going to do that and rightfully so.
If the Pirates want to make any kind of run towards a division crown over the next couple years, they will need Marte in the lineup to do that. And it is not just because of his bat and glove, he is the only one who can seemingly get the most out of Gregory Polanco. For some reason these two have a symbiotic relationship and they will need that down the stretch of the season, especially if McCutchen goes away in a trade. Granted, Marte could struggle and continue to swing at pitches ten feet out of the zone, something that can’t be fixed by steroids.
Don ?t be afraid to cheer Marte when he returns. You can boo because he missed 80 games, you have earned that right, but don’t hit him for the steroids. If you wouldn’t hit any of the Steelers of the 70 ?s for it, don’t you dare do it to Marte. If you want the Pirates to somehow go on a run and win the division, getting behind your Gold Glove outfielder from the start might allow him to get off a fast start in his return. They are only back seven games and with four against the first place Brewers this week they can split the difference. Winning the division this season may only be a fantasy to most Pirates fans, but with playing more than half of their games against divisional opponents the rest of the season they will have all the opportunities in the world to take the NL Central. Every step of the way, they will need Marte to be at his All-Star level of last season. Just remember, don’t be a hypocrite this week Pirates fans. Know your history.