The Drive with Jody Oehler

The Drive with Jody Oehler

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An Uncomfortable Question and an Answer about Ketel Marte

Ketel Marte is having his moment.

NL All Star starter, breakout star, foundational talent for the Dbacks, fan favorite and maybe more by the time the season is through.

Its a great story and its injected some much needed positivity into the Phoenix sports landscape and I've been along for the ride the entire time.

But, I'm also a lifelong baseball fan. I grew up loving every part of the game. Collecting and sorting baseball cards for HOURS, backyard wiffle ball with ghost runners, countless minor league and major league baseball games, a family vacation every year to the Baseball Hall of Fame, reading box scores daily in the newspaper, Starting Lineup figurines, a subscription to Beckett and Baseball Weekly, the list goes on and on.

And then the Steroid Era happened and it ripped something away from my love of baseball that can never return.

It's like a marriage thats been ripped apart by cheating; even if the couple stays together through hard work and therapy, its never going to be the same.

And one thing I vowed after bearing witness to the complete degradation of baseball's competitive integrity in the late 90's and early 2000's was that I wouldn't be that trusting or gullible again. Which means, at a minimum, asking questions before its too late.

As a media member now, I have the ability to ask those questions, no matter how uncomfortable it may be.

So I'll ask it:

Should we be suspicious of Ketel Marte's out of nowhere power surge?

He has 20 HR's through JUNE. His previous career high was 14 a season ago. Three years ago in nearly 500 plate appearances, he hit exactly one home run. One. So far, he's hit 20 in less than 350 plate appearances this season. He's on pace to become just the third player ever in Dbacks history to hit 40 or more home runs in a single season, joining Gonzo and Mark Reynolds.

He's the pride of the Dbacks this season, a deserving All Star starter and one hellva story.

But, should we be suspicious?

And my answer is...No.

Well, I mean, not anymore than any other MLB player. After the Steroid Era, Ill harbor some suspicion of every MLB player for the rest of my life.

And the reason is, its not just Marte who's having an unexpected, out of nowhere power surge.

The Home Run leaders list in baseball is full of dudes who have zero name recognition.

Derek Dietrich has 18. Tommy La Stella has 16. Renato Nunez has 16. Dansby Swanson has 15. Graham Fountain has 19. I made one of those names up and it will probably take a google search for you to figure out which one isn't real.

MLB has set a record for most HR's in a month in May and is very likely to break that record in June.

Its a more of a rarity to see a sacrifice bunt or stolen base at a baseball game than a home run.


This time around, its not the players who are cheating. Its Major League Baseball. They're cheating with juiced baseballs. They've admitted the balls are different this year. This is all by design.

So, for now, lets all enjoy Ketel Marte's performance for what it is: A great story.

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