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Melky Cabrera, Your Steroids Are Everyone's Problem

As the Giants' All-Star outfielder was suspended for testosterone use, the disappointment is sinking in across the Bay Area.

Melky Cabrera, San Francisco Giant and All-Star Game MVP, tested positive for testosterone use and was suspended without pay for 50 games on Wednesday. To put it plainly, I'm angry.

I used to be a steroid apologist. As a Giants fan, it was hard not to be. Despite a stockpile of evidence taller than AT&T Park's Coke bottle to the contrary, I maintained that it was entirely possible that Barry Bonds never used performance enhancing drugs. 

Even now, it's hard to admit that he maybe...probably...definitely did it. 

Every time another name came out associated with steroids, especially big-timers (Clemens, A-Rod, Sosa, etc.), I felt vindicated. Watching well over 100 Giants games year after year, and hearing the boos for Bonds in all opposing stadiums grew tiresome. It became en vogue to boo Barry away from San Francisco, as he was the sole contemporary face of cheating in baseball. 

Little did most bandwagoning, ignorant, some would argue racist fans of other teams know that an estimated majority of their players were also on the juice. 

I never held steroid use against a baseball player. Formal, clear-cut drug policies were not laid out by the MLB until 2006. I don't believe use before that year to be grounds for rejection from the Hall of Fame, or public ridicule in general. But my stance is not a popular one.

The bottom line is that steroid use was the culture of competition in baseball from the late 1980s until 2005. If you weren't doing steroids, you weren't competing. The trend said more about players' collective priority balance of money (steroids=production=contract) over health (steroids=addiction, liver tumors, high blood pressure, aggression, etc.) than it did about willingness to cheat. 

Players of the Steroid Era shouldn't be blacklisted or asterisked. Let's not forget multiple generations of baseball players that actively banned Black players from joining their ranks. None of them are barred from the Hall of Fame for that veritable decision to pad their stats.

But this is no longer the Steroid Era. Offensive numbers are down across all of baseball as a direct result of stringent drug testing that has all but eradicated steroid use from the game. There is no grey area anymore. If you are using performance enhancing drugs, you are cheating. 

Melky knew better and did it anyway. Two years ago, with the Atlanta Braves, he hit an unimpressive .255 with four home runs and 42 RBI. Through 113 games this season (on testosterone), he swung a near league-leading .346 with 11 home runs and 60 RBI. Maybe it should have been obvious.

Now Cabrera leaves the Giants tied for first in the NL West with an upward-trending Dodgers team. He won't be eligible to hit the diamond again until the National League Championship Series, if the Giants manage to get that far. 

He'll suffer in that he'll repel serious contract offers in free agency come October. He was said to be demanding close to $15 million per season before Wednesday's announcement. But the collateral damage goes further than his bank account. The Giants are left scrambling to fill the gap left by a legitimate NL MVP candidate, and fans are stuck trying to come up with justifiable talking points to support the argument that San Francisco isn't a steroids mecca. 

A modest prediction: Years from now, legend will have it that a clandestine BALCO lab was camouflaged in left field at AT&T Park. 

You still see Barry Bonds jerseys at every Giants home game, and he hasn't played in five years. That's because he was a Hall of Fame caliber, shining example of perfection of the culture of his era. Rest assured you wont be seeing Melky's 53 scattered around McCovey Cove now or ever. 

What do you think of Cabrera's suspension? Are you upset? Did you see it coming? Tell us in the comments!

Joan S. Dentler (Editor) August 15, 2012 at 09:51 PM
I don't know whether I'm more mad or sad about this. Just last night Bruce Bochy and MadBum said the team had finally gelled and they had their starting line-up that would carry them to the playoffs and beyond. Welcome back Pablo, see ya later Melky. Geez Melky, didn't you KNOW they'd test you???
Kathy O'Mara August 15, 2012 at 10:03 PM
I think if he was juiced when he played the All-Star Game, he should lose that MVP award. Period.
Jacob Bourne (Editor) August 15, 2012 at 10:19 PM
I think that's a fair point, Kathy. It probably won't happen since All-Star Game MVP is more or meaningless in the grand scheme of things, but there is certainly a good argument for giving it to someone else (Pablo?).
Chana Heather Schames August 15, 2012 at 10:28 PM
I cannot believe this is happening. I agree with Kathy. He knew he was gonna happen... he doesn't care!!!!!
Andrew August 16, 2012 at 12:44 AM
I'm just really disappointed because I bet you that people looked up to him because they thought he was great. But apparently he wasn't great at all, he was a big cheater who doesn't deserve ANY awards. Shame...
Scott August 16, 2012 at 03:09 AM
So bummed... Nice piece Jacob, right on the money. I do hope that Melky returns, lesson learned, he's not the only one. MLB is at least issuing substantial penalties. Hope it's enough.
Rick Eymer August 16, 2012 at 08:37 AM
While Melky should and must face the consequences, it is important to note that this suspension was based on tests dating to spring training 2011 and maybe even earlier. The reason major league baseball waits is to be absolutely sure of its test and retesting of more than one sample. This is just bad timing for the Giants. Whether Cabrera was ever using a banned substance while playing for San Francisco is a whole different story. He certainly acted outraged when a reporter leaked news of the suspension a month ago. The reporter was confronted, in the locker room in front of the rest of the area's media, by Matt Cain and Angel Pagan among others, while the rest of the team also had Melky's back at the time. I wonder if the team will apologize to the reporter after he was "asked" to apologize himself.
Michael Gallegos August 16, 2012 at 02:33 PM
Guillermo Mota was busted for 100 games this year. That is 2 players in one year. I think the Team should be penalized also.
Steve Hayes August 16, 2012 at 02:58 PM
Victor Conte (Balco) was interviewed yesterday and he said something like "only the stupid get caught". There is probably much more of this doping than we would like to think. At the beginning of Olympics track and field I was awed by the performance of the sprinters from Jamaica, but by the end of the games it was pretty apparent that something else was going on besides pure ability - the team performance was too good to be true.
Joan S. Dentler (Editor) August 16, 2012 at 03:09 PM
Let's not let this awful news overshadow a truly great moment in baseball yesterday--Felix Hernandez's perfect game for the Seattle Mariners. As Giants fans, we all know how that perfect game feels, so let's look at the good things that can happen in the sport.
Jacob Bourne (Editor) August 16, 2012 at 03:33 PM
Rick, Melky's positive test came from this year, somewhere around early July or the All-Star Break. Steve, I read Conte's comments too. It's hard to believe he's not just stirring the pot. He is WAY out of touch with the game right now. Furthermore, any juicing guys are doing these days frankly isn't working. This is the era of the pitcher.
Carson Anthony Curcini August 16, 2012 at 03:39 PM
If you are hitter playing your home games at AT & T, there has to be at least the temptation to cheat. Barry Bonds broke HR record playing in the toughest park to hit HR's. Incidentally maybe the second toughest is Safeco in Seattle. The first batter of the game against Hernandez hit a ball that would have been a home run at most parks.
Tom August 16, 2012 at 06:44 PM
Jacob, Victor Conte is not out of touch. Since being released from prison he has already added MLB players and professional boxers to his fold. Also, juicing is obviously working. Did you see Cabrera's numbers? His Slugging Pct. rose over 100 points and his OPS over 200 points since he started using PEDs and Melky will still remain the NL batting champ this year. Or what about Ryan Braun, last year's NL MVP? PED use is still happening to a lesser extent but it is still working. Also, Conte is right on. The MLB testing is a joke, the player's union worked it into their agreement with MLB that they will be notified when they will be tested, so it isn't hard for them to pass.
Jacob Bourne (Editor) August 16, 2012 at 06:59 PM
Conte needed to say what he said to get his sound bite. If he had said 15 percent or 28 percent, that's not as astounding as saying 50 percent. And yes, clearly testosterone worked for Melky. However, in this time of diminished offensive statistics, it is clear that the drug policy has had a massive effect.

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