Dunlap: Marte’s Return A Study In Fan Reactions

PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — It came a bit as a surprise. I didn’t expect, as Starling Marte stepped to the plate for his first at-bat after an 80-game performance-enhancing drug suspension, for the crowd to largely offer a big round of applause.

But that’s what they did for the man who cheated baseball.

For the man who cheated himself.

And, perhaps most of all, cheated his teammates out of someone who could have really helped for half this season.

The more I think about it, however, perhaps I should have expected this — after all, the home crowd pretty much always cheers the home guys and boos the away guys. That’s just how sports work, no matter how deep the transgression or what penalty was served. The unwritten fan code is that they take up for their own and have an innate detestation for the men in the other jersey.

I’m not — like some others have been doing — going to take Pirates fans to task for warmly welcoming back Marte, who cheated so many out of potentially so much this season.

Is he a villain? Yep.

Was his sin unconscionable? That’s up for debate.

Should fans be seething about this forever? Uh, no.

Again, that is just what fans do — they move on if one of their own is involved in something unseemly; that ain’t indigenous to the fans here in Pittsburgh, it happens everywhere.

What I would have done, had I been in the seats as a fan on Tuesday night is boo Marte unmercifully when he was announced for that first at-bat. I would have booed with all I had. I would have let out the frustration of being screwed out of 80 games of getting to see — and my team getting to have — a world-class talent who, when performing at the top of his game, can compete with any outfielder in baseball.

And then after that first at-bat I would have got on with it. I would have felt better about getting it off my chest and I would have settled back in cheering for the man. That’s just my personal opinion and the sequence I would have take.

But I can see where the paying customer felt like they needed (or, really wanted) to have the back of Marte from the very beginning.

And, you know what, come the near future, Marte’s 80-game suspension won’t be fully forgotten about, but Pittsburgh fans will largely judge him by his actions on the field once again. That’s also how it works in this what-have-you-done-for-me-lately atmosphere of sports. Fans won’t much care about Starling Marte’s PED use when the next homestand rolls around, they will only care if he can throw out someone trying to stretch a single into a double or if he can hit a mistake, hanging curveball into the left-field seats. Heck, it won’t even take that long, they will start caring about that right now and really not even think much about the suspension moving forward.

Is it right? I don’t know.

Should fans be more upset at Marte? Again, I don’t know.

But you haven’t been paying enough attention if you don’t understand that home fans are always, indisputably going to side with the guys on the home team — no matter what they did. That’s just how sports work.

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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