By testing positive for performing enhancing drugs, Melky Cabrera ruined the best chance he had at securing a lucrative multi-year contract. If that wasn’t bad enough, he also sabotaged a starring role on a team that went on to win the World Series. And it’s a shame, really – he is at the cusp of his prime – 28 years old – and was enjoying a MVP-type season at the plate before his season-ending suspension (.346/.390/.516; 25 2B, 10 3B, 11 HR, 13 SB through August 14th).
Now, those big dollar dreams and multiple years of job security are gone. Which is why it makes perfect sense for the New York Yankees to bring the Melk Man back to the Bronx.
Personally, testing positive for steroids doesn’t immediately taint a player in my eyes–I’ve just never been the kind of person who busts out the red paint when a player is implicated. But I’m probably the minority in these situations, seeing that we’re currently in the golden age of moral hypocrisy, and it seems like many fans and members of the media salivate at the thought of a baseball player testing positive for steroids, but often choose to ignore the drugs rampant abuse in other sports.
And it’s easy to designate villains and victims during the Steroid Era. The media and fans tend to pick and choose who they label a cheat and shun for life, and who is granted clemency with a simple tussle of the hair and a slap on the wrist based on a player’s personality. The more personable a player, the more likely they are to avoid life-long scrutiny. Barry Bonds was a jerk to the media, never officially tested positive for PED’s, but he’s tainted in almost everyone’s eyes as a cheater, and now he’s far removed from the baseball circle. Then there’s Mark McGwire, who sort of denied using steroids by “not wanting to talk about the past,” then cried, then eventually admitted it, and now he’s back in baseball as the hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals. It’s a slippery slope that is often uproarious and unpredictable. Bottom line, it’s best to just avoid the cheating label altogether, but I’m sure that’s easier said than done.
Luckily, Cabrera had mass appeal with fans, which why the Yankees should consider him as an option to fill the void left behind by the departing Nick Swisher. During his time in New York, he never had a serious problem with the media, which only makes a player more endearing over time. He also always seemed to get the big hit in a big spot, and while he may not be the most talented player on the field, he at least seemed to always be playing his hardest. Do these make him the ultimate answer? Absolutely not. But getting suspended for PED use has already eliminated the chance of getting saddled with a long, expensive contract.
So now that a premier type contract is out of the question for Cabrera (at least this offseason), a one or two-year-deal with incentives would probably get the job done. And regardless of what might have been “enhanced,” Cabrera is an upgrade over anyone else the Yankees are hoping to plug into right field next season. With Swisher departing for free agency and players like Mason Williams and Tyler Austin a couple of years away from being big-league-ready, Cabrera is the perfect stopgap. Cabrera also brings a little bit of speed to a team that is in desperate need of some quickness on the base paths.
No doubt the media will take potshots at Cabrera, and at first, the Yankees’ motive will be questioned. But as I said before, Cabrera has yet to stoop to villain level, so the scrutiny will eventually pass. And for a team that’s had a recent string of success scouring the bargain bins, Cabrera could be another name to add to the list.