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MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

Melky Cabrera not exactly a feel-good story

Decision to give up batting title comes with extenuating circumstances.

September 23, 2012|By Bill Shaikin
  • Melky Cabrera's associates created a website and blamed the positive drug test on the phony product.
Melky Cabrera's associates created a website and blamed the positive… (Hunter Martin / Getty Images )

Do we clap for Cabrera?

This should be a feel-good story. Melky Cabrera gets busted as a drug cheater, then voluntarily surrenders his claim to the National League batting title.

It just doesn't come off as a feel-good story.

"I have no wish to win an award that would be tainted," Cabrera said in a statement.

That sounds noble — well, almost — until you recall that New York Daily News report about Cabrera's associates trying to fool the drug police by creating a website and blaming the positive drug test on a phony product.

That sounds honorable, until you remember that Cabrera won the All-Star game most-valuable-player award and has not voluntarily surrendered that title.

That sounds terrific, until you realize Cabrera would like the San Francisco Giants to include him on their playoff roster, would like a nice contract somewhere next year, and would need some sort of gesture to repair his image.

That sounds great, until you read the fine print, where the commissioner's office and the players' union agreed to a one-time-only loophole in Rule 10.22 (a) to accommodate Cabrera, rather than to set a precedent that players suspended for drug use are ineligible for awards.

You could argue that the suspension should be the full punishment, as agreed to in collective bargaining, but MLB and the union have since agreed that players suspended for drug use can be banned from the All-Star game.

That sounds sincere, except for this ridiculous quote in a statement from Seth Levinson, the agent for Cabrera: "Since his suspension, Melky has been adamant that he did not want the batting title."

The date of Cabrera's suspension: Aug. 14.

The date Cabrera asked to be ruled ineligible for the batting title: Sept. 19.

Baseball cannot escape the residue of the steroid era, no matter how hard it tries. The Hall of Fame ballots this winter will include the names of Barry Bonds, the only seven-time MVP, and Roger Clemens, the only seven-time Cy Young Award winner.

Should their names be removed from the ballot? On what grounds? Neither Bonds nor Clemens failed a drug test administered by MLB.

Rafael Palmeiro did. Should his name be removed from the ballot?

If not, why should Cabrera be told anything other than, "Thanks for the offer. But if you win, the batting title is yours to keep. You did your penance."

None of this is to say Cabrera did the wrong thing, whatever the motivation or circumstances. But, in a world that clamors for black and white, the shades of gray here are blinding.

In their own words

Cabrera, on Friday: "I have no wish to win an award that would be tainted."

Bonds, Aug. 7, 2007, the night he broke Hank Aaron's all-time home-run record: "This record is not tainted. It's not tainted at all. At all. Period."

Bill Shaikin

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