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Marte Suspension Is McCutchen’s Golden Chance

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Pittsburgh Pirates star CF Starling Marte has been suspended 80 games by the MLB for testing positive for the PED Nandrolone, the MLB announced Tuesday afternoon.

This is not good news in the slightest for the Pirates. After missing the playoffs last season for the first time since 2012, Pittsburgh is trying to get back on track this season, and doing that without one of their best players for half the year will not be easy.

The 28-year-old Marte will not be allowed to return until after the All-Star break and will be ineligible for the playoffs if the Pirates qualify. There’s no need to panic for the Bucs, however, for they have the right man to fill the void.

Marte’s breakout 2016 season, in which he batted .311, coincided with a comparatively lackluster year from franchise player Andrew McCutchen, who batted just .256. Marte’s absence is a huge blow to the Pirates, but it might just be the opportunity that ‘Cutch needs to reinvent himself.

Don’t get me wrong, while 2016 wasn’t a good year for McCutchen’s standards, he still didn’t play all that poorly. His batting average was significantly lower than previous seasons, but he still hit 24 homers and drove in 79 runs, both respectable numbers. But, when you consider that he normal bats somewhere in the 310s, his downgrade season was enough for Clint Hurdle to make Marte the club’s starting center fielder, bumping McCutchen to right for the first 13 games of the season. With Marte gone, Hurdle placed his stalwart back where he belongs, and it paid off immediately.

Against St. Louis on Tuesday night, McCutchen was a new man, going 2-4 to extend his hitting streak to nine games and making an impressive full-sprint catch on the warning track to rob Mike Leake of extra bases. After the grab McCutchen pounded his chest and pointed to the ground, saying “this is mine”. That old ‘Cutch swagger is exactly what the Pirates are going to need to become a contender in the NL Central again.

There’s no reason to believe that McCutchen won’t return to All-Star form this season. Returning him to his natural position in center instead of moving someone else was a smart move on Hurdle’s behalf and it should continue to pay dividends. McCutchen is my prediction for NL Comeback Player of the Year this year, and now that he’s back in center field, he might do just that.

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MLB

Flyers Remove Statue of Kate Smith

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The Philadelphia Flyers have joined the New York Yankees in the removal of ties to singer Kate Smith, whose famous rendition of “God Bless America” was played at both Flyers and Yankees games.

Earlier this week, the Yankees decided to suspend the use of Smith’s rendition, which was played during the seventh-inning stretch, while they investigated allegations of racism against the later singer.

According to a report from the New York Daily News, there are conflicting claims about Smith’s 1939 song “That’s Why Darkies Were Born” which
originated in the 1931 Broadway revue “George White’s Scandals” and was considered satire but includes racist language, including the line;
“Someone had to pick the cotton. … That’s why darkies were born.”

The song was recorded by Smith and Paul Robeson, who was black.

The Flyers put out the following statement on Sunday (h/t ESPN):

“The Flyers have enjoyed a long and popular relationship with ‘God Bless America,’ as performed by the late Kate Smith, a woman who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor for her patriotic contributions to our nation.

“But in recent days, we learned that several of the songs Kate Smith performed in the 1930s include lyrics and sentiments that are incompatible with the values of our organization, and evoke painful and unacceptable themes.”

Smith, who was popular during the WWII era, recorded the offensive jingle, “Pickaninny Heaven,” which she directed at “colored children” who should fantasize about an amazing place with “great big watermelons,” among various other treats. 

Smith also endorsed the “Mammy Doll” back in 1939 which was based on a racist caricature of a black woman similar to Aunt Jemima.


“The Yankees have been made aware of a recording that had been previously unknown to us and decided to immediately and carefully review this new information,” a club spokesman said. “The Yankees take social, racial and cultural insensitivities very seriously. And while no final conclusions have been made, we are erring on the side of sensitivity.”

The odds aren’t good that Smith’s songs will return to their prominent places during sporting events such as they were with the Yankees and the Flyers.

There is a lot of cleaning up to do when it comes to racism in sports, and weeding out songs attached to artists with questionable, and controversial, backgrounds such as Smith’s, is important in pushing forward towards the future.

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Chicago Cubs

MLB Investigating Racist Social Media Messages Sent to Cubs’ Carl Edwards Jr.

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Major League Baseball is investigating racial messages sent, via social media, to Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Carl Edwards Jr. prior to his demotion to the Triple-A Iowa Cubs back on April 6th.

According to The Athletic’s Patrick Mooney, the messages have caught the attention of both the Cubs and the MLB Players Association, leading to the launch of the investigation.

Mooney had been a solid bullpen option during the last few seasons, but had a nightmare start to the 2019 season posting a terrible 32.40 ERA in just 1.2 innings of work over four appearances.

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MLB

Carlos Zambrano Attempting Comeback, Signs with Indy Team

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Former MLB pitcher Carlos Zambrano is attempting a comeback and has signed with the American Association’s Chicago Dogs, according to the Chicago Sun-Times’ Gordon Wittenmyer.

Zambrano last pitched in the majors back in 2012 with the Miami Marlins, but earlier in his career he finished in the top five of the Cy Young voting in the National League three times as a member of the Chicago Cubs.

Zambrano started his comeback bid last fall when he took the mound for 7 starts in the Mexican League, pitching to the tune of a 5.18 ERA, and performing even worse during a short stint in the Venezuelan Winter League.

Given his recent lack of production, it is a longshot to believe that Zambrano will return to the MLB level, but stranger things have happened.

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