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The End of a Beautiful Friendship: Melky Cabrera Suspended For Positive Drug Test

San Francisco Giants left fielder Melky Cabrera was suspended for 50 games without pay today by Major League Baseball for testing positive for testosterone, a banned performance enhancing drug in baseball’s labor agreement. Cabrera apparently already appealed the ruling and issued an apology to his teammates, the Giants organization, and Giant fans saying, “I am deeply sorry for my mistake.”

The MLB investigation into Cabrera’s drug use apparently started in early July and due to the careful procedures now in place for testing MLB players the process took over a month before Cabrera was finally suspended.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the suspension will cost Cabrera about $1.6 million in salary for the rest of the season.

Melky Cabrera was picked up in an off-season deal with the Kansas City Royals for Giants pitcher Jonathan Sanchez, who is now with the Colorado Rockies. Cabrera’s .346 batting average was second highest in the Majors, and he led all of baseball with 159 hits. His 2012 season projected to 220 hits; he had 201 hits in 2011 as a member of the Royals.

We heard the the news at AT&T Park as a half dozen seemingly simultaneous text messages pelted my cell phone about 30 minutes prior to today’s game with the Washington Nationals. The immediate feeling of staff and fans in the area was one of devastation and disappointment. Several people said the news gave them same terrible feeling that Buster Posey’s season-ending injury did in May 2011.

Melky Cabrera had been promoted and touted by the Giants organization, including appearances at home games of “the Melkmen”, fans dressed in white milkmen uniforms cheering their hero on. The “Melkmen” were instrumental in generating All Star ballot votes for Cabrera, who was chosen as a starter and became the MVP of the 2012 All Star Game.

The persona Cabrera created in San Francisco this season was beloved by fans and media alike and the news of his positive drug test will hit the organization hard. Just a few years away from the performance drug controversies surrounding slugger Barry Bonds, Giants management had build a fan-friendly, media controlled universe seemingly secure from this level of scandal and negative news.

Now that has changed and San Francisco Giants ownership is once again faced with rehabiliating their brand in the face of a player cheating scandal. Earlier this season Giant reliever Guillermo Mota was suspended 100 games by Major League Baseball for his second positive drug test in seven years.

Game #117 of the 2012 Season Was Unique
Ironically the Giants played their first game of the year this week with their best batting line-up healthy and in place in a win over the Nationals. Trade deadline pick-ups right fielder Hunter Pence (from the Phillies) and infielder Marco Scutaro (from the Rockies) were joined by third baseman Pablo Sandoval, recently off the disabled list.  

Pre-season acquisitions Angel Pagan and Cabrera joined Sandoval and three other home-grown players to round out the reconstructed offense: Buster Posey (.951 OPS, .331 BA) who has been the dominant hitter in the game since the All Star break; Brandon Crawford, the team’s fast-developing super shortstop; and 24 year old slugging first baseman Brandon Belt, who will have to pick up much of the slack created by Cabrera’s departure.

This would have been the best offensive batting order the Giants put on the field since the 2002 World Series team of Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent.
On that 2002 team, LF Barry Bonds (1.381 OPS, 110 RBI, 117 R, 46 HR) and 2B Jeff Kent (.933 OPS, 108 RBI, 102 R, 37 HR) were backed up by RF Reggie Sanders (85 RBI, 23 HR), C Benito Santiago (74 RBI, 16 HR), and 3B David Bell (82 R, 20 HR).

It took 10 long years for the Giants to finally assemble a batting line-up with legitimate offensive punch 1 though 7 in the order. That finally happened Tuesday when the new-look San Francisco offense took on Washington Nationals’ starter Jordan Zimmermann and his League-leading 2.35 ERA. The Giants won 6-1 on Madison Bumgarner’s complete game victory.

The very next day San Francisco lost their best hitter for the rest of the 2012 season and the perfect line-up was gone in an instant. Now the drive to make the 2012 playoffs could disappear just as fast.