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Thoughts On the Melky Cabrera Suspension and His 2011 Season


It came as a surprise to many when a report on Wednesday afternoon stated that Melky Cabrera had tested positive for performance enhancing testosterone and would be suspended 50 games for violating the league’s drug use policy. Cabrera made a statement admitting to taking a substance and apologized.

Cabrera was having a great season, challenging for the batting title while being a key part of the Giants offense, being selected to start the All-Star Game, and winning the exhibition’s MVP award. This followed up on a breakout year in 2011 when Melky turned an opportunity with the Royals into a career year, registering 200 hits, one of just five batters to do so.

Now, much of that is called into question.

Nobody knows when Cabrera may have started using an illegal substance. It certainly could have been one time and he happened to get caught. There will be suspicions though. Cabrera came into 2011 having lost a lot of weight and performed better than ever after a career of mostly mediocre to average seasons. Until other information comes out, I’m going on the assumption that he used one time, perhaps to continue the strong performance he’d happened upon in 2011.

That’s not going to stop the questions, though. Cabrera had never had a season with an OPS above .752 in a season. He’d never surpassed 30 doubles until 2011. He had more than 50 additional hits than his next highest season. That sudden spike in performance won’t go unnoticed by those who want to point fingers. For the sake of giving someone the benefit of the doubt, I hope there’s only smoke and no fire, but I wasn’t the only one who thought his performance was a fluke most of last year (and at a certain point, I just had to accept what was happening despite my previous skepticism).

It’s unfortunate. Cabrera seemed to be a fit in the Royals clubhouse last year and fans took to him in San Francisco.

But he broke the rules.

The Royals traded Cabrera in the offseason for Jonathan Sanchez and while it looks like an awful trade today, at the time it was reasonable for both sides. Few expected Cabrera to maintain his success much less improve upon it, and Sanchez had shown potential in the past. It ended up going as badly as possible for the Royals with Cabrera’s big year, Sanchez’s awful season, and is only somewhat improved by getting good performances from Jeremy Guthrie after the Rockies took Sanchez off the Royals hands.

Some have said that this indicates that the Royals “won” the trade since Cabrera is out for the rest of the regular season.

They didn’t get any of Cabrera’s 159 hits in 2012 and the suspension sure doesn’t take away Sanchez’s stinkbomb starts. There turns out to be no winner in this deal and the Royals are fortunate to have gotten any kind of return to salvage anything after such poor results.

These situations tarnish the game and the accomplishments of the players involved. Last year, the Royals outfield performed as well as any in baseball history at the plate. It was one of few high points in another losing season. Now there’s a question mark over it. Still, no matter how disappointing it is to any 2011 Royals marks, it’s more disappointing to Giants fans and teammates, who are fighting for a playoff spot and now lost a key producer for a third of the year for something he may not have even needed to do.