Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Melk-pun free reflection on Cabrera's suspension

Pre-Blog Note:  I haven’t written anything for this site in a while (I know, I know, what a tragedy) – what can I say?  I’ve taken on a larger role at Bay Area Sports Guy and have really been enjoying it.  Life doesn’t always allow me to spend large portions of everyday blogging about sports, so I write when I can, and what I write I put on BASG. 
Given both the severity of this situation, and the fact that BASG (a 5-tool blogger in his own right) was already at the park and on the case when the suspension came down, I really didn’t have anything more to add on his site.  Nevertheless, I have some thoughts on the situation, so consider this my triumphant (but probably brief) return to the Ruthless Sports blog.

Okay, let’s get to it

The shockwaves of Melky Cabrera’s 50-game suspension for a positive testosterone test have surely reached anyone reading this blog by now. It is the biggest news in the sports world today – especially in the Bay Area.  Cabrera was the fasted rising star that San Francisco has seen in years, not only because of his immediate production but because of how he sustained it.

Melky’s on-field performances were not of the Gregor Blanco variety – that is, fun but short-lasted.  Cabrera started hitting immediately and kept right on hitting.  The movement for resigning Cabrera was large, loud and rabid.  There were concerns that the Giants couldn’t even afford him after the 2012 season that he’s had.

So much for that

Giants ownership – a group larger than the headcount in my community college statistics class – is already a hard bargain when it comes to shelling out money for players.  To make matters worse, nearly every risk that ownership has taken in signing free agent players to big contracts has resulted in disaster (see: Rowand, Aaron).

This is obviously speculation – as no one except Melky really knows how long he has been using performance enhancing drugs – but Cabrera’s numbers definitely indicate a questionable spike in his 2011 turnaround season with Kansas City.  His OBP/SLG/OPS jumped significantly - .317/.354/.671 in 2010 (ATL) to .339/.470/.809 in 2011.  The numbers were even better with the Giants in 2012 – Cabrera was hitting .390/.516/.906.

Knowing what we know now, signing Cabrera to anything longer than a one year deal would be a ridiculous risk.  We know that he was a player that underperformed and had issues with his weight early in his career.  We know that he got in shape and turned his game around in eyebrow-raising fashion.  We know that, at some point in time, he used a performance enhancing drug to get better.  The question remains – will he revert to his post-2011 form when he returns from his suspension and PEDs are no longer an option? The risk may be too large for Brian Sabean – or more importantly, Giants ownership – to take.

The ripple effect

Hopefully most savvy Giants fans (and I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, you’re savvy) avoided shelling out 150 bucks to buy a Melky jersey.  Of course, some fans did.  Oh, the humanity.

The effects of this suspension will be felt from the luxury boxes all the way out to the parking lots. As I predicted, the Giants marketing staff went nuts with the word “Melk” and produced a ton of gear catering to Cabrera’s following.  The Melkmen, the group of Cabrera fans that became a staple at the ballpark, will have to look for new employment a new player to get behind.  And the small companies making a name for themselves through the Melk movement (like LND Apparel) will have to find something to do with those creative clothing options that probably won’t sell now.  This suspension was an enormous blow to this franchise and its fan base, and we haven’t even talked about the team yet.

Moving on from Melky

Cabrera’s absence in the lineup doesn’t leave it completely devoid of pop, but it is a major blow.  Alex Pavlovic reported on Twitter that the Giants will be optioning Dan Otero to AAA Fresno and calling up two hitters tomorrow.  The names of those players have yet to be announced, but you have to assume that OF Justin Christian will be one of them.  Brett Pill is another option; they just love to call up Brett Pill. 

In the meantime, Gregor Blanco will be seeing a significant amount of play in left field.  Although it will have to do, it won’t replace the production that Cabrera was providing.  Blanco went 2-for-4 in the Giants loss to the Nationals today, but he was 0 for his previous 20 at bats.

Beyond Blanco, the Giants will need Hunter Pence to start producing, Pablo Sandoval to stay healthy and Brandon Belt to keep his newfound poise at the plate alive (and maybe start running the bases a little smarter, too).  As for Buster Posey?  He’s the guy who’s had to put the team on his shoulders more than a few times in his still-young career.  It looks like he’ll have to do it again.

Speaking of the Giants’ catcher – how does Posey feel about Cabrera’s suspension?

“It was just a bad decision,” Posey said.  “I’m not really going to say more than that.”

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