The Pirates announced on Tuesday afternoon that outfielder Starling Marte has been suspended 80 games by Major League Baseball after violating the league’s Joint Drug Agreement. Marte tested positive for Nandrolone, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
Team president Frank Coonelly released a statement:
Marte also released a statement in which he says he tested positive due to “neglect and lack of knowledge,” Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe reports. As Abraham points out, Nandrolone is an injection-only steroid.
Though Marte was off to a slow start, mustering just a .659 OPS in his first 13 games, he is arguably the Pirates’ best player. Losing Marte, an All-Star and two-time Gold Glove Award winner, for half the season puts a serious damper on the Pirates’ dream of contending in the NL Central. The club entered Tuesday 6-7, tied for third-place in the division with the Cubs. If the Pirates were to reach the postseason anyway, Marte would be ineligible.
You hear a lot about pitchers tipping pitches. It’s often offered up post-facto as an excuse for poor performance by the pitcher himself or his own team. It’s sort of like the “best shape of my life” thing being offered in the offseason to talk about why the player got injured or played badly the previous year. “Smitty’s stuff is still great, he was just tipping his pitches,” said a source close to the player whose stuff is not really great anymore.
Which isn’t to say that pitchers don’t tip pitches. Of course they do. Opposing teams look for it, pick up on it and take advantage of it whenever they can. It’s just that (a) the opposing team has an interest in not talking about it, lest the pitcher STOP tipping its pitches; and (b) the guy actually tipping his pitches doesn’t want to talk specifically about it lest he starts doing it again.
Which is what makes this article at Sports Illustrated so interesting. In it Tom Verducci talks to an anonymous Houston Astros player who explains how Dodgers starter Yu Darvish was tipping his pitches during the World Series, leading to him getting absolutely shellacked in Games 3 and 7. The upshot: the Astros knew when a slider or a cutter was coming, they waited for it and they teed off.
Darvish is a free agent now. I’m guessing, whoever signs him, knows exactly what they’ll gave him work on the first day of spring training.