PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – The Pirates play the Milwaukee Brewers on July 18 at PNC Park.

Normally that would be a pretty bland date on the home schedule except for the Brewers’ surprising run to first place in the National League Central. But that’s really just a backburner story, even for a Tuesday night home date in the middle of summer against the Brew Crew …

It is also the date Starling Marte is eligible to return from his PED suspension that will, on that date, have encompassed 91 days.

He will have lost $2.46 million in salary.

He will be a guy — along with Jung Ho Kang — who many fans look to as the prime reasons why the Pirates floundered to this point in the season when the National League Central crown really did turn out to be attainable.

He will have fallen out of favor — to varying degrees — with some Pirates fans.

And that’s the part I’m most interested in as this Marte saga plays out moving forward. You see, at this point there is zero anyone can do about the past.

Whether Marte (un)knowingly took steroids or not will probably never be truly ascertained, but what people think of the guy and how he’s received in his career as it pushes forward is a study in sports fandom psychology that I’m very, very interested in.

I’m guessing on July 18, barring any setbacks from now until then, Marte will be the starting left-fielder for this club and early-on in the game will step into the box after being announced by public address man Tim DeBacco.

Will fans largely cheer?

Will they largely boo?

I’m guessing it will be a smattering of both; intertwined cheers and boos as patrons express their opinions with their mouths and hands in a mish-matched buzz.

What you should do is up to you, but I think Marte’s egregious act of getting suspended for PEDs and leaving his teammates hung out to dry is something that cannot, and should not, be excused away. It isn’t so much a stance on PEDs as to why I feel that way, but a stance against knowing the rules and following them when you play a team sport as your actions don’t just impact you, but those on your team.

Will Pirates fans see it that way or not?

I’m thinking we live in a society — and a root, root, root for the home team culture — where as soon as Marte does something positive for the Pirates, fans will cheer wildly. Again, that would be your decision if that’s what you want to do; there is no right or wrong here.

Marte shouldn’t be beheaded for his actions and getting himself suspended, but in my opinion there needs to be a decent bit of vilification he should have to shoulder.

The people who say the Pirates had a shot at the National League Central this season had Marte stayed clean aren’t totally wrong. With the Cubs and Cardinals being down and Milwaukee being the surprise leaders of the division, I’m not delusional in thinking the Pirates would be on top of the Central had Marte not gotten himself in the jam.

But I am steadfast in my belief (and it just seems like logic) that they are better with him than without him. That said, this club would be closer to first place than they are now had he not been pinched for PEDs.

And Starling Marte isn’t the lone person who has a jersey that says “Pirates” across the front. Again, this is a team sport, not an individual one.

That’s why I will have a hard time quickly forgetting all he did to let this team down, no matter what brilliant acts he performs on that field starting July 18.

That’s just my opinion. I’m sure there are many differing ones out there and all of them are really intriguing to me. This Marte situation, in some ways (especially in the court of public opinion) isn’t coming to an end, but just getting started.

Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weekdays from 5:40 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at colin.dunlap@cbsradio.com. Check out his bio here.

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