Melky Cabrera – A Fan’s Take

Prior to Wednesday’s news, I had spent the better part of two months admitting to anyone and everyone that I was wrong about Melky Cabrera. Coming into the 2012 season, I was far more ready to embrace Angel Pagan and an everyday Nate Schierholtz than a guy whose last tour of the National League was an abysmal turn with the Braves in 2010. Then came the hits, and the Melkmen, and the hits, and All-Star Game, and the team records, the hits and the Pennant Race.

When I heard the news, I skipped right over shock and depression and barreled directly into rage. In small part for making me feel like an idiot: I had been apologizing for my preseason Melky doubts almost as much as I was demanding Brandon Belt playing time. Most of the rage, however, stems from the fact that, as a Giants fan, I felt that our community had finally worked its way free from the specter of the steroids era. The 2010 World Series team erased past postseason failures along with past performance-enhancing scandals. The 756 plaque in right-center field is about as subdued as it gets for an organization that typically loves to throw a party.

I’ve heard the experts speak for years about how the guidelines and repercussions may not be strict enough. I saw last year’s NL MVP Ryan Braun become the first to successfully overturn a fifty-game suspension. Earlier this season we lost Mota to a second offense. I understand that PED abuse hasn’t gone away. But when it happens to the Giants, when it happens to a guy at the center of a playoff-caliber team, I knew we would have to deal with people like this guy who thinks that the Giants should forfeit position in the standings.

And this is where the real rage comes from.

Yes, Melky won the All Star Game MVP, and it’s an embarrassing image, now, to see him hoisting that trophy. But it wasn’t Melky, but a triple off the bat of another Giant, Pablo Sandoval, that broke the game open. And it wasn’t Melky, but Matt Cain, who stifled the bats of that vaunted AL lineup. And it isn’t Melky, but Buster Posey, the hottest hitter in the game since the All Star break, who is at the center of our pennant hopes down the stretch.

The East Coast Bias is a real thing, ladies and gentlemen, and these caustic reactions demanding All Star Game reversals and team penalties are further proof. Maybe Ryan Braun just had a better lawyer. Or he makes a better poster boy for American baseball. He won the MVP, beating out a more deserving (as much as I hate to admit it) west coast player, and somehow dodged a deluge of bad press. A notable new Giant gets caught, and writers want to invoke Serie A rules and send the entire squad to triple-A.

The most notable example of the aforementioned writer’s ignorance is when he suggests that the Giants’ pursuit of Hunter Pence could have been driven by the fact that the front office knew that Melky was taking testosterone and were arming themselves in case of a suspension. First of all, why would an organization that has made such strides to emerge from the Game of Shadows go right back to the thinnest ice on the pond?

Secondly, if you’re going to write on baseball, pay attention to baseball. All of it. Even the teams that start games when Ohioans are putting on their pajamas. The Giants pursued Hunter Pence last year before Melky was even an offseason possibility. Coming into this season, there was nothing solid about the Giants’ outfield, and it had remained a key point of trade pursuit since April. Did you really think Pagan, Blanco, and Schierholtz were foregone conclusions? Do you read any west coast press? What about statistics: other than Cabrera, which Giants outfielders were doing so well that trading for Pence seemed superfluous? Ever look at the standings, or what other west coast teams are doing in a pennant race? The Dodgers had just traded for Hanley Ramirez, and were rumored to be in the market for Pence before settling for Victorino. To think that these were not the primary factors in the deadline deal that brought Pence to the Bay is asinine.

I get it: guys like this get paid to piss people off. He even designates a section on his blog called “Hate Mail” to archive irate responses from readers (most of whom, I’ll admit, sound like morons). He stimulates discussion with controversy. And just to be sure he’s not simply trying to make a reasoned argument, but would rather have internet commentators react with frothing mouths, he serves up a statement like, Giants: “Steroid Central.” Disregard the fact that, since 2005, when MLB’s new policies on PED suspensions kicked in, the Rays, Mariners, and Mets have all had as many 50-game suspensions as the Giants (a whopping three apiece). Forget the Braun debacle. Ignore Clemens, Sosa, Giambi, and Palmeiro, and all the other high-profile Mitchell Report targets. I wonder if this, or any other writer with a similar agenda, has even been to AT&T Park and witnessed a crowd of fans in love with their team, savvy about baseball, and now, collectively disappointed and enraged by Melky Cabrera. Steroid Central? How dare you.

It’s always been tough being a Giants fan. It was tough on me as a kid when the A’s were the dominant team in the Bay Area. In the 90’s when we never cleared that playoff hump. During the Bonds era where everything was shrouded in suspicion and 2002 when it felt like we were the villains defeated in a Hollywood ending. Hard still in the internet era when more and more Californians ignore geography and history and adopt “favorite” teams all around the country; in 2010 we were the underdog cinematic heroes, but it hurt me a little to see so many locals buy into the east coast media promises of Phillies or Rangers dominance.

Damn you, Melky Cabrera, for making it hard all over again.

But it won’t make me stop loving this team, loving September baseball, or defending this town and its fanbase as the best in baseball. Now, let’s take care of the Padres this weekend. East coast writers, continue to glance over boxscores in the morning. We have no need of you.