Melky Cabrera just delivered a huge jolt to the dog days of August with the shocking news that he's being suspended for 50 games after testing positive for testosterone.
Major League Baseball announced the punishment for the reigning All-Star MVP on Wednesday afternoon and it is effective immediately.
The Giants, tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers atop the NL West, only have 45 games left in the regular season. That would make Cabrera eligible to return in the sixth game of any combination of tiebreakers, wild card games and playoff contests, though he wouldn't have the benefit of working his way back
"My positive test was the result of my use of a substance I should not have used," Cabrera said in a statement. "I am deeply sorry for my mistake and I apologize to my teammates, to the San Francisco Giants organization and to the fans for letting them down."
Cabrera had been experiencing a great contract year with the Giants after an offseason trade from Kansas City. He currently leads the league with 159 hits and holds a .346/.390/.516 line with 11 homers and 60 RBI for San Francisco.
A few thoughts here:
• Given the timing and impact on the NL West, this has to rank as the biggest drug suspension since the current policy took hold in 2005. Yes, Manny Ramirez's suspension near the start of 2009 involved a bigger or better player, but it didn't come near the end of a hotly-contest division race. Ryan Braun's suspension generated a lot more headlines than Cabrera's ever will, but it was ultimately overturned on a technicality. Cabrera was a borderline MVP candidate for the Giants and his bat will be missed from their lineup.
• There's no doubt Dodger fans are cheering this news as it presumably weakens the Giants down the stretch. But you have to figure that fans in wild-card chasing locales like Atlanta, Pittsburgh and St. Louis.
• Until Wednesday afternoon, Cabrera figured to strike it rich on the free agent market this offseason. Best of luck to him as his agent tries to convince GMs that this year's improved numbers weren't a product of better living through chemistry.
• A player accepting his suspension and apologizing immediately instead of hiding behind a team of lawyers or inventing some fantastical story and excuse. What a novel idea.
• GM Brian Sabean's pursuit of Hunter Pence via the trade market just took on an added context, eh?
• MLB could have a hairy situation on its hands depending how the batting title race plays out. Cabrera has 501 plate appearances to his name this season and a .346 average. That's behind Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen at .359 and just ahead of Joey Votto at .342. Cabrera needs one more plate appearance to qualify and so one hitless at-bat will be added to his total under the "Tony Gwynn rule" that gave the Padres star the batting title when he came up short in 1996. (Bill Madlock also benefitted from the rule in 1981, though it wasn't known as the Tony Gwynn rule then.) Would baseball keep Cabrera's name on the record books if Cabrera is atop that list at the end of the season?
• Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area chased rumors of a positive test at the end of July, but then publicly apologized to Cabrera when he was unable to find proof. Given Wednesday's news, a few of the commenters on that post owe Baggarly an apology.
• I just imagined one of these men crying and saying "Say it ain't so, Melky" mid-blubber. They have to be among the most disappointed Giants fans today. And rightly so.
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