MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Melky's actions cost him more than batting title

Justice: Melky's actions cost more than batting title

Melky's actions cost him more than batting title
Let's not fret about Melky Cabrera's motives. In the end, he did the right thing, and that's enough.

If Cabrera were trying to score some public-relations points, he succeeded. If this is the start of the next chapter of his career, it's a good one.

To have Cabrera win a batting title would have been wrong on many levels. First, he doesn't deserve it.

We'll never know how many of Cabrera's 159 hits this season were a result of his using a performance-enhancing drug. Maybe none of them. Maybe all of them.

That's the thing about using this stuff. Suddenly, every accomplishment falls under a cloud of suspicion.

It's reasonable to assume that some of the things Cabrera did this season were because he cheated. If he'd taken home the National League batting championship, it would have been an embarrassment to both himself and his game.

Cabrera would have known he didn't deserve it, and all the players he competed against would have known the same thing. Cabrera seems to understand this, and so he asked to use a technicality in the rulebook to have his name removed from consideration.

Cabrera is still atop the leaderboard at .346, but now Andrew McCutchen and Buster Posey will decide the title in the final 12 days of the regular season.

We'll never know how long Cabrera had been using performance-enhancing drugs. His production spiked the past few years, and some immediately suspected he wasn't playing by the rules.

That's the thing about performance-enhancing drugs. Once they're in a sport, there'll always be a suspicion about who is doing what.

Major League Baseball has worked relentlessly to rid itself of this stuff. But as long as there are competitive people, some of them will attempt to cheat.

That's life in every sport, professional and otherwise. Perhaps Cabrera believed he'd get away with it and that he could soar into free agency and grab a contract worth $100 million.

Getting caught has cost Cabrera more than money. It has cost him his good name, and now there'll be teams deciding they'll pass on him this offseason because they don't want to risk he'll get suspended again.

The San Francisco Giants privately are furious that one of their most consistent offensive players suddenly disappeared from their lineup.

Cabrera's absence might have cost them a division championship had Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Belt and others not stepped up when Cabrera departed.

The Giants appear to want no part of him even after his suspicion is up. They don't want him back in their clubhouse after what he did to them.

To bring Cabrera back during the playoffs would have been an enormous distraction and send absolutely the wrong message. This isn't one of those cases where the punishment fits the crime. Cabrera lost so much that he may take a long time figuring it all out.

Baseball can point to Cabrera and say that its testing system is working. He's a cautionary tale for every player thinking of cheating.

Cabrera has been a popular and productive player at every stop of his eight-year career. Now almost no matter what he does, he'll be remembered, at least in part, as the guy who could have ruined a wonderful season for the Giants.

That season looks far different now that the Giants have gone 23-10 without Cabrera and increased their lead in the NL West from one game to 10. He may eventually be remembered as an embarrassing footnote to the season. He deserves nothing more.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.