Melky Cabrera spent a season of no special distinction with the Atlanta Braves, whereupon they non-tendered him, which is to say they dumped him. He wound up in Kansas City, which as we know is the Last Chance Saloon for all undistinguished Braves, and finished the 2011 season with 201 improbable hits.
This raised a few eyebrows — the prototype fourth outfielder getting more hits in a season than Ted Williams ever did? — but only a few. Because playing for the Royals doesn’t quite count. Then Cabrera was traded to San Francisco, where he turned into a fair approximation of Barry Bonds. Through 113 games he was hitting .346 with 11 homers and 6o RBIs. And those are, it must be noted, the numbers with which the Melkman will end this regular season.
Because he just got suspended 50 games after testing positive for elevated testosterone. This could well doom the Giants, who have fallen behind the Dodgers in the National League West, and it doesn’t exactly leave the sport itself with a shiny halo. Months after reigning NL MVP Ryan Braun tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug (his 50-game ban was overturned on a procedural issue), the man just crowned MVP of the All-Star Game has gotten himself docked.
A cynic would say that Cabrera is proof that PEDs actually do enhance performance. Two years ago he wasn’t good enough to play everyday for a Braves’ team starved for everyday players. This year he was one of the best players in the league.
Cabrera’s enforced absence will surely be noted when the Braves play in San Fran next week. Last month Melky spent a series at Turner Field nettling his old mates with his exaggerated celebratory routines, and Chipper Jones and Tim Hudson voiced their displeasure. The rematch figured to be intriguing. Moot point now, alas.
Not moot, however, is this: According to Deadspin, Cabrera can still win the batting title.
By Mark Bradley