9:20 PM CDT, October 23, 2012
SAN FRANCISCO — I looked and looked for Melky Cabrera in the Giants' water-logged celebration, and never did find him.
Sort of like the way his teammates looked for him when his 50-game suspension was announced.
In both cases, the guy was otherwise occupied, no doubt trying to find new ways to save what's left of his reputation. Good luck on that, big fellow.
The Giants open the World Series on Wednesday night against the Tigers, accomplishing a mission that seems doubly impossible. They have won six consecutive elimination games against the Cardinals and the Reds, and they have done it while turning the absence of their All-Star left fielder, a .346 hitter this season, into a non-factor.
Amazing, if you ask me.
If you ask catcher Buster Posey or general manager Brian Sabean, they will say, "Melky who?'' They will say it sort of rings a bell but they're not quite sure, like you're asking about the Pythagorean theorem or something else they learned in the junior year of high school.
Around the Giants' clubhouse, Cabrera is old news. That blows me away.
Sabean could have added him to the NLCS roster in place of Xavier Nady or Aubrey Huff. He could get him for the World Series with one phone call but he has said, no thanks, I'll use the guys who didn't defraud me by ingesting artificial testosterone and then cook up a complicated scam to try to explain away a positive test.
Maybe that sounds simple to you, but not me. If I'm the guy who sets the roster of a team that has a chance to win the World Series I want my best players. I would have had Cabrera in Arizona, taking a dozen at-bats a day in the Instructional League, and then I would have put him on the bench, if not back in left field.
I asked a rival baseball executive about the decision. He said he "applauds Sabes'' for doing it but didn't think it was a difficult decision.
"When he left, he didn't speak to the team,'' the unnamed exec said. "After you miss 50 games, you're not going to get back on track. I would have said the same thing — 'See you later, pal.'"
The exec continued.
"He put the team in a bad spot,'' he said. "You always do what's right for 25 guys, not one guy.''
Another executive said Cabrera badly misplayed his hand to alienate the Giants, as no organization has been more tolerant of PED guys. They have a two-time offender on their playoff roster in reliever Guillermo Mota, who served a 100-game suspension during the season.
"I think they're two different situations really,'' Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "I mean, one happened during the season with Mota, and he was available to help us out during the season. So we made a spot there for him. With Melky … the club played very well (without him), and the guys that we had been putting out there have done the job. They've earned this, and this is the way we're going to move forward.''
Before the NLCS, Sabean said he was comfortable with the Giants in their Cabrera-free alignment, with Gregor Blanco as the primary left fielder.
"You've seen the team and what we've done since he has been gone," Sabean said. "It's a very close-knit team. To use (third-base coach) Tim Flannery's phrase, it's a very spiritual team. They're very comfortable playing with each other and for each other.''
When Cabrera was popped on Aug. 15, the Giants were 64-53 and tied with the Dodgers for first place in the NL West. They had scored only 4.25 runs per game despite Cabrera's career year and lots of us thought they were about to go away.
Instead they went 30-15 down the stretch, scoring 4.9 runs per game and developing a swagger behind the aggressive tone set by Blanco and midseason acquisitions Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro.
"'Boch' is a great manager,'' one executive said. "People don't give him enough credit. He adjusts to the players he has and he's able to hit-and-run and do other things with guys like Blanco and Scutaro. They're better defensively than they were with Melky. It's a better team.''
Oddly, Blanco was the only Giant who said he hoped the team would give Cabrera a second chance. But there was no way that was happening.
The next time you see Cabrera will be next spring, and who knows what uniform he will be in? The exec I talked to said he probably was headed for a four-year, $50-million deal before the positive test but now will be lucky to get one year and an option at about $8 million a year.
Guaranteed money isn't all he has lost either. His team just might win the World Series but it seems unlikely he will need to be fitted for a ring.
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