Did everybody just see that? Melky Cabrera, San Francisco Giant’s outfielder, just took a bullet aimed straight for Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig’s head. On Friday, Cabrera requested through the MLB players union that he be disqualified for the 2012 National League batting title.
Cabrera, playing in his seventh full major league season, was enjoying a breakout campaign out by the Bay Area in San Francisco. He was hitting a whopping .346 through 501 plate appearances. He was the National League MVP of the All-Star Game in Kansas City, Mo., and was presumably on his way to being the National League MVP of the season. He was also on his way to a big pay day when his contract was due to expire at the end of the season. And just like so many before him, it all came crashing down around him when it was announced that he had tested positive for testosterone. He was suspended for 50 games for violating the MLB drug abuse policy, and his entire stellar season would be remembered with a hint of resentment from the fans who have been cheated in a similar fashion all too many times.
But Cabrera still had a chance, even after being caught cheating, to be listed in the history books as the 2012 National League batting champion.
It was announced Thursday through the commissioner’s office that if the season ended with Cabrera still in the lead in the batting race and on Friday he was still leading second-place Pirates’ outfielder Andrew McCutchen by seven points, then he would be crowned as the batting champion because of a quirky rule.
Did you catch that? The guy who failed a drug test for performance-enhancing drugs would still be remembered in history as the batting champion. Let it sink in.
Of the four big sports in North America, baseball has suffered plenty of black eyes. While Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro and a slew of others are being held out of Cooperstown, N.Y., for their alleged performance-enhancing drug use, all of their records still stand just as pristine as ever.
Those games happened, and this isn’t “Men in Black” where you can simply flash all of America and make them forget that magical season when McGwire and Sosa were going toe-to-toe for the single season home run record. We can’t forget the season just a few years later when Barry Bonds blew past the both of them.
The point is, if Bud Selig didn’t have his head in the sand for a decade-plus on the steroid issue, those records wouldn’t be tainted. Hank Aaron wouldn’t be second on the all-time list for home runs, behind someone like Bonds, who put on almost 40 pounds of muscle over the course of his 22-year career. Those records will forever be tainted because Selig was reactionary instead of being proactive.
Now six-and-a-half years after Major League Baseball adopted its new drug-testing policy to cleanse the game, we still have superstars faltering and tainting records and personal achievements. 2011 National League MVP Ryan Braun failed a drug test a month after he received the prestigious award. And while Braun had the test overturned on a strange appeal, the award still holds a bit of question, even if Braun is matching his MVP numbers this season under a presumably clean slate.
If Melky Cabrera had not taken himself out of the running for the National League batting crown, which he likely would have won, baseball would have affectively not taken a positive step forward since the days of the “juicers.” Cheaters would still be embraced as historical icons, and the game’s integrity would continue to sink like the Titanic.
Instead Cabrera did what was right, something Bud Selig cannot seem to wrap his mind around. Cabrera took the bullet for a spineless commissioner in hopes of returning integrity back to America’s pastime. And while Cabrera still cheated, he at least owned up to his mistake and made it right, something the cheaters before him did not. He ensured that the proper winner will win the batting title the right way, not by cheating the game and all its fans that crave to put the days of tainted baseball behind them.