Another player has been busted by the Major League Baseball Joint Drug Program, but this time the consequences will be felt like none before.
Melky Cabrera, the reigning All-Star game MVP and National League hits leader, was suspended 50 games without pay by Major League Baseball on Wednesday.
Cabrera was having a career season and was almost single-handedly leading the Giants into a pennant race. He wasn't only leading the NL in hits and runs, but was 4th in Wins Above Replacement and was hitting .346 with 11 homers and 60 RBIs. The switch hitter was in the twilight of a monster summer in which he produced a 51-hit month in May — batting .429 with three homers, five triples, seven doubles and 17 RBIs, all while hitting safely in 25 of 29 games, recording the most hits in May, passing Hall of Famer Willie Mays' 49 in 1958.
While with Atlanta in 2010, Cabrera only hit .255 with 4 home runs before exploding for 18 home runs and a .305 average with Kansas City last season. There is no doubt that Cabrera — who turned 28-years-old on August 11 — was in route to not only leading the Giants to a deep playoff run in '12, but also a huge raise to come in '13. Now all of that is in serious question.
"My first thought is that it cost him millions of dollars," stated ESPN baseball analyst Jayson Stark. "He was headed for a 220 hit season…hitting .346, had a chance to win the batting title and was the All-Star game MVP. He was set up to have a huge pay day. Now, how can there not be questions about how much of this was legit and what you're buying if you sign him next year?" said Stark to ESPN anchors.
The Giants have relied on their superior pitching for years, but couldn't get over the hump in 2011 because of their weak lineup. After Cabrera's monster production and the recent acquisition of former Phillie and All-Star Hunter Pence, the belittled Giants lineup was almost a distant memory. With 45 games left on the schedule, it's now guaranteed that Cabrera will miss the rest of the season — only playing if the Giants make the post-season and play more than five games. With such a harsh sentence at such a crucial time, it's obvious that management and Cabrera himself are sorely dismayed.
"We were extremely disappointed," the Giants said. "We fully support Major League Baseball's policy and its efforts to eliminate performance enhancing drugs from our game."
Cabrera released a statement that read, "My positive test was the result of my use of a substance I should not have used. I accept my suspension under the Joint Drug Program and I will try to move on with my life. 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."
Pence added, "It happened, and now we move on. I know the program and I know they test us, and if we test positive, we get a suspension. That's what happened. And now we play with what we've got."
And that's what they'll have to do: play with what they got. The question will be whether or not they can fill the hole of losing a .346 hitter?
The Giants are currently 64-54 and one game behind the Los Angeles Dodgers for first place in the NL West.
Photo Credit: Jeanine Leech/Icon SMI