Melky Cabrera was busted for using testosterone. Melky Cabrera tried really hard to hide from the fact that he was using steroids by creating a criminal subinternet. Melky Cabrera also hit the ball really, really well this season. These are all facts. What we didn’t know was if he would win the batting title and it was freaking people out. I wouldn’t say it was like the summer of Son of Sam, but I wouldn’t say it wasn’t like that, ether.
With and Major League Baseball about to be buried in an endless number of newspaper clippings detailing the downfall of American Sport, Melky Cabrera ducked out of the batting race.
Melky said in a statement:
“I have no wish to win an award that would be tainted. I believe it would be far better for someone more deserving to win. I asked the Players Association and the league to take the necessary steps to remove my name from consideration for the National League batting title.
“I am grateful that the Players Association and MLB were able to honor my request by suspending the rule for this season. I know that changing the rules mid-season can present problems, and I thank the Players Association and MLB for finding a way to get this done.”
However, I’m sure Melky’s decision making was more like this:
EXT. DIVE BAR - NIGHT
Melky walks down a lonely alley late at night. He’s quickly surrounded by three large men in suits.
MELKY: Hey fellas, I don’t want no trouble.
GOON #1: Problem is, you already made trouble.
Melky is socked in the gut.
MELKY: Listen, take my money, my watch. Okay? I just want to go home.
GOON #2: You hear that? He wants to go home. How funny is that?
GOON #3: Real funny.
GOON #1: Shaddup, Fez.
The goon grabs Melky by the hair and shoves him against the brick wall.
GOON #1: Here’s what you’re gonna do. You’re gonna give up the batting crown, kapiche?
GOON #2: Otherwise, for every hit you made, I’m gonna hit you. Hit you right in the gonads.
MELKY: But I earned the batting title.
The three mercilessly attack him. He’s bloodied and bruised.
MELKY: Okay, okay. I give it up. I give it up.
GOON #1: Good. Glad to see you can listen to some sense.
As he walks away, we see in the light that the goon is none other than Bud Selig. THE END????
I don’t know, maybe it didn’t happen that way. Maybe it was just a strongly worded phone call.
There are two major issues at play here:
1. Major League Baseball is possibly setting a bad precedent on the future. The deciding powers have proven they don’t understand long-term planning by squeezing in the extra wild card this year, potential ties and tiebreakers be damned. This could one day have the same effect.
What if a player is suspended in the offseason? Or a year later? Are their titles retroactively stripped? And because of the rules for this season, Joey Votto will now no longer have any opportunity to win batting or OBP titles even though he could very easily do it. Did you ever see The Butterfly Effect, Ashton Kutcher’s greatest work? It’s like that, but much more serious and with worse hair.
2. Unless Andrew McCutchen overtakes Melky Cabrera, he didn’treally win the batting title. Sure, it will be published that way. And if that’s the narrative that works in your mind, great. The simple fact is that he didn’t do it. Anyone who ever talks about the 2012 batting title will mention that, technically, Melky Cabrera had a higher average. That’s why we have numbers otherwise we could go around and have people vote on who they thought was the best contact hitter every year. And it would be an absolute mess.
Quick—tell me who won the 2003 batting title? Or the 1992 one? No idea? Exactly, unless it was a remarkable performance, akin to the 1997 battle between Tony Gwynn and Larry Walker or Ted William’s 1941 season .406.
Until we can figure out just how much steroids affect Major League performance, is it 10 points of average? 30? 50? How may homer runs are they worth? Or until we decide that roided up player’s entire career is invalid, we can’t really say.
Yes, Major League Baseball avoided embarrassment this season, but it’s not like it’s going to be easier or cleaner in the future. Players will use drugs and some will get caught and others won’t. Melky Cabrera comes off like a saint, protecting the “sanctity” of baseball, but in the end, it doesn’t really matter. The narrative that baseball fans tell themselves will always hold up, regardless of any official ruling. Meanwhile, Major League Baseball has hastily amended the rulebook and can only wait for future issues to arise.