A few have suggested that the Giants might be missing something they need to make their final push towards their second title in three years.
Dan Szymborski of ESPN writes:
“When compared with left field alternates Gregor Blanco and Xavier Nady, that’s still enough to give Cabrera a 4-win edge over 162 games. ZiPS estimates the dropoff in team quality is enough to turn the Giants from the 52-48 favorite to the 47-53 underdog in the World Series, a dropoff greater than the Nats using Ross Detwiler instead of Strasburg.”
Keith Law, also of ESPN, tweets:
“My argument on Melky is strictly that he’s a better use of a roster spot than Huff or Mota.”
Both gentlemen seem to be missing the point. The Giants are completely right to leave Melky Cabrera off their playoff roster, even though the terms of his suspension have been fulfilled. There are at least a dozen reasons why, here are three:
1) Melky Cabrera sucks
Yes, Melky Cabrera was hitting .346/.390/.516 at the time of his suspension. Yes, he won the All-Star Game MVP. Yes, he had 200 hits last year.
Steroids account for most of that. Which, in case we’ve forgotten, is the entire reason why he was suspended in the first place.
Before 2011, there was nothing special about Melky Cabrera; hell, even after 2011, Keith Law – yeah, same guy – referred to him as a fourth outfielder. Pre-steroids, Melky Cabrera had just been cut loose by the Atlanta Braves following an 83 OPS+ year (he had never had a season over 100 before that).
He’s also a poor defender, amassing negative defensive ratings each of the past four seasons.
Finally, he’s out of practice, having not played since August. Is that the player you think is going to dominate Justin Verlander?
Frankly, that’s the Melky you should expect to see. Not the MVP candidate from the first half.
2) If the Giants do win, with Melky Cabrera as a contributing factor, it will tarnish their legacy
The Giants should be able to brush away attacks that a 2012 championship would be illegitimate due to Melky Cabrera’s contributions on the team. After all, Melky Cabrera was valued at about 5 Wins Above Replacement (or, if you prefer, 5 Wins Above Blanco) for the 2012 season. The Giants won the division by 8 games. It’s an estimate; maybe things would have been different – but with such a commanding lead at the end of a season, our best guess has to be that the Giants would have ultimately prevailed. Remember, they were actually tied with the Dodgers on the day Cabrera was suspended and pulled away after.
Then, the Giants made the post-season and won both the NLDS and the NLCS, winning an incredible six elimination games to ultimately advance to the World Series. Without Melky.
The Giants can make it out of this season with an untainted World Series victory. Considering Melky Cabrera sans steroids isn’t all that great a player anyway (see 2006-2010) and is unlikely to contribute above an beyond what Huff or Blanco could do, it’s really not worth tarnishing what could shape up as a dynasty.
3) They made it without him
As mentioned above, the Giants pulled away from the Dodgers after Melky Cabrera was suspended. The Giants went 30-15 after Cabrera’s suspension. Gregor Blanco filled in and his play, while unspectacular, was certainly satisfactory, his speed and glove-work compensating somewhat for the lost offense that Cabrera was responsible for.
The Giants made the decision they did for a reason: Melky Cabrera is no superstar. His 114 games of super-stardom were nothing more or less than a juiced-up anomaly. There’s no reason to bring him back now. Keep your current, successful team and keep your dignity (although Guillermo Mota is a confusing way of achieving ‘that end).