What should have been the best story in baseball this year has quickly turned into the weirdest, and it should seal Melky Cabrera’s fate with the Giants.
Any chance of the Giants re-signing Cabrera at a bargain price in the offseason evaporated Sunday after the New York Daily News reported that federal agents are investigating the left fielder’s entourage, agents and trainers after a plot to prove his innocence with a phony website was debunked.
Giants fans were heartbroken and furious when news of Cabrera’s positive drug test broke last week, but it wasn’t too far-fetched that a scenario could have unfolded where he would be invited back. Imagine the Giants win the NL West and they’re making a push past the first round of the playoffs. Were they really not going to use Cabrera’s bat, at minimum, in pinch-hitting situations?
And once the heart gets opened in October, the slippery slope toward a discount deal in November begins. A lot of fans were impressed that Cabrera took accountability for his actions in a statement Wednesday; they would have forgiven him if the team recovered and the price was right.
But the franchise can’t have anything to do with him anymore. He’s no longer just a guy who made a “bad decision”; he’s a liar, a fabricator and, potentially, a felon.
Prior to this latest bizarre twist, some were already saying that the Giants needed to cut ties with Cabrera to send a clear message that the franchise won’t tolerate PEDs. The Giants were at the center of the BALCO scandal centering on Barry Bonds and a handful of players associated with the team — Jose Guillen, Guillermo Mota, Eliezer Alfonzo — have been linked to performance-enhancing drugs in the aftermath.
But no one is blaming the Giants for Cabrera’s suspension, and if there’s any truth to BALCO founder Victor Conte’s statement to USA Today last week that “maybe as much as half of baseball” still uses some form of PEDs, they shouldn’t be faulted for giving a guy who fesses up a shot at redemption, either.
Cabrera missed his chance, though, by plotting a ridiculous cover-up scheme. If Conte’s estimation is accurate, I can sympathize, to some extent, with players who get sucked into taking performance-enhancing drugs.
If half of the guys are on it, you could feel like you need to take it to keep up or you risk losing your job. There’s also a diffusion of responsibility — everyone else is doing it, so no one feels like they’re really cheating.
But after getting caught, Cabrera compounded the mistake by allegedly paying $10,000 for a website to create the digital illusion that he’d purchased a tainted legal supplement and that’s why he’d tested positive.
This isn’t stretching the rules to keep up with the Joneses; it’s a calculated deception that shows a complete lack of moral integrity and the Giants can’t endorse that behavior with a contract.
So what’s next for Cabrera? He’s already worn out his welcome in New York, Atlanta, Kansas City and now San Francisco. With Jeff Novitzky, the federal government’s steroids cop, on the case now, it could turn into another prolonged media scandal. But when he comes, will anyone want him?
Paul Gackle is a freelance writer and regular contributor to The San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.