Pittsburgh Pirates: Marte, Steroids, and Baseball Culture

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Editorial: In this week’s edition of Monday Minute, we will take a look at some topics surrounding the Pittsburgh Pirates. Issues such as Starling Marte, and an issue that plagues baseball.

The biggest issue surrounding the Pittsburgh Pirates this off-season was Jung-Ho Kang.  Now, the focus has shifted to Starling Marte.  Marte has been suspended for 80 games after he failed the Spring Training drug test.  Many fans are very upset as “their favorite player will never be the same.” There is a lot to be upset about this situation, however there is a bigger picture here.  Marte is the Pittsburgh Pirates best player hands down, even before he decided to take nandrolone.  In a way, it is hard to blame Marte for taking steroids.  Yes it is against the rules, it is selfish, and it puts the team in a tough position going forward, but it is part of baseball.

Steroids, like it or not, are a part of the culture of baseball.  Players have proven over and over that they are not worried about suspension when it could mean gaining a huge contract, all-star appearances and other honors, or other big time advertisement deals.  This is especially true for Latin American players.  Players who come from the Dominican and other Caribbean Islands are born into poverty.  Their escape is baseball, and if they can become good enough to sign at the age of 16, then they have a chance to get out of poverty.  However, their goal is to not just get themselves out of poverty, but their family.

Film for Reference

In the documentary Ballplayer: Pelotero this can be seen for two Dominican-born players trying to get a big signing bonus on July 2nd.  For those who do not know, July 2nd is when the international market opens up for players to be signed.  The main player that is being followed in the documentary is Miguel Angel Sano, who was being pursued by multiple teams including the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Sano, who was considered the top prospect in the market that year, was looking to sign a large bonus.  He often speaks about getting a new house for his mom and family.  I recommend watching the documentary for the story on what happens to Sano.

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The point here is that Latin American players take on extra pressure to make it in the big leagues.  They may not actually be doing it just to boost their stats for their own personal satisfaction, but in fact they do it to make more money, to provide for their parents, grandparents, siblings, and one day their own children.  Taking steroids is not a good part of baseball, but it is part of the current culture in the game.

Look at the players who it has worked out for, David Ortiz, Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens, even Dee Gordon, to name a few.  All these players were caught taking steroids.  Yes, they are plagued forever, although David Ortiz has moved past it being he accepted responsibility for his actions.  Alex Rodriguez and Rodger Clemens, however, were not as accepting and were much more hostile to the claims.  Both will always be remembered for this because they did not accept it and move on, but rather continued to drag out the issue.

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Final Thoughts

Starling Marte obviously took responsibility and did not even appeal the punishment according to reports.  Marte, who just signed an extension in 2014, may have looked to get known more on a national stage.  He just came off his best season as a Pittsburgh Pirates player, but still lacks league wide acknowledgment.  Yes, this sounds selfish at first, however if a player is not popular among the league as being one of the best players, how does he get those cleat deals, commercials on ESPN, and other endorsements that pay so well?

Do we know this for sure?  No, and we will never know.  Nevertheless, keep in mind that many of these players who do steroids are not necessarily doing it to be the greatest of all time.  Some players like Clemens and A-Rod did do it for that reason.  However, most of these players are doing it because they feel the pressure to help net a bigger payday to help get their families out of lifelong poverty.  Can you blame him?

*In no way do I support the use of steroids in any way.  This article was meant to show a different perception as to why a player may make this decision.