Starkey: Marte a 'special cat'
By Joe Starkey
Published: Saturday, May 4, 2013, 11:36 p.m.
Take what you will from the Pirates' tough, 5-4 loss to the Washington Nationals on Saturday. There was plenty to pick apart.
I took this, in the form of a mental snapshot that will take a prominent place on the baseball shelf: Starling Marte's cannon shot into the right-center field bleachers, over the Trib Total Media sign, on a 95-mph fastball from Stephen Strasburg.
“Special cat,” Pirates catcher Michael McKenry said.
Marte treated the Pirates' first national television audience of the season to what has become a fairly typical day for him. He again led off the first inning by getting on base — this time when he was plunked by a Strasburg heater.
Marte leads the majors in reaching base (19) in a team's first plate appearance. He then stole second (his 10th steal of the season) and raced to third on an errant throw.
The kid's so good that even his mistakes are exciting. Did you see him try to field a ball with his glove on his throwing hand on a misplay that turned into a triple for Ryan Zimmerman, then nearly throw out Zimmerman at third?
“I tried to stop (the ball),” Marte said, explaining the glove switch. “But you can't do that.”
I caught up to Marte at his locker stall, warned ahead of time that he isn't inclined to do one-on-one interviews without an interpreter.
He warmed up right away, though, when I asked if he's having fun.
“A lot. A lot,” he said. “I don't care if you're 0 for 5, 0 for 4, 2 for 3, whatever. Every time I'll have the same face. I'll be smiling, joking. That's me.”
He paused, then went on: “Somebody in the minors asked me one time why I was (smiling) when I was 0 for 5. I said, ‘Today, we have a bad today. You don't know tomorrow.' I have fun every day.”
That's obvious. And unlike with Pedro Alvarez, who was roundly booed after some poor at-bats dropped his average to .178, Marte has become a crowd favorite.
“I know in Pittsburgh they love how I play,” Marte said. “I work hard every day for the fans. I think they like me.”
We could sit here for hours and talk about the secondary issues that contribute to winning teams in any sport. Things like chemistry, coaching and depth. But we all know the most important ingredient: star power.
You need stars.
The Nationals have two of the brightest young superstars in the game in Strasburg and Bryce Harper. The Pirates have one in Andrew McCutchen. They'd love to see Alvarez claim that title. In the meantime, it sure looks like Marte is blooming into one before our eyes.
Yes, it's a long season. Baseball players must prove themselves consistently over a long period of time. But there's something about the way Marte carries himself that makes you believe he's in this for the long haul, that big numbers like his .513 slugging percentage are sustainable.
He is easily the team MVP thus far.
“He's very confident in what he can do: He knows what he can do,” McCutchen said. “If you have that at an early time in your career, it can take you a long ways because it's not always going to go your way.”
No, it's not. But in Marte's case, even if today is bad, you don't know tomorrow.
Tomorrow might be something special.
Joe Starkey co-hosts a show 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 93.7 “The Fan.” His columns appear Thursdays and Sundays. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Analysis: Steelers could fill needs with free agents while not spending big bucks
- Steelers to release LaMarr Woodley; Taylor restructures contract
- Crosby lifts Penguins over Capitals in last game of road trip
- Pittsburgh woman’s death at Drexel probed as possible meningitis
- Job cuts at AGH part of ‘strategic’ process
- Marcellus shale driller Noble Energy Inc. sinks roots into Pittsburgh
- Stage volunteer dies following collapse at Pine-Richland High School
- Top pitching prospect Taillon’s time with Pirates must wait a bit
- Penguins notebook: Heralded Russian Evgeny Kuznetsov debuts with Capitals
- Profit falls at American Eagle Outfitters on sales decline, charges
- Gas tax could factor into Pennsylvania gubernatorial race