This is the first year in the history of the MLB that three perfect games have been tossed. This coupled with the call-ups of Mike Trout and Bryce Harper have made this an extraordinary year of baseball, one that has me as excited to be a fan as when my San Francisco Giants won the championship. I’m excited to see what’s going to happen next, and it’s been a while since that has happened. In fact, I can tell you when it was; it was the year that Sosa and MacGuire were chasing each other and Roger Maris’ homerun record. That was the last time baseball really captured my attention on its own merits. I was a causal fan after that until a few years ago when my friend introduced me to the heavenly drug that is fantasy baseball. That made me watch the sport with an intense passion, albeit still not the same fervor that gripped me as I watched Sosa and MacGuire bat ball after ball into the stands. Souvenirs for all! Little did I know that both players would be implicated in the steroid debacle, nor could I know that the man that broke both the record MacGuire put up and the overall homerun record held by Hank Aaron would also find himself accused of being tainted with PED’s.
Barry Bonds being a member of the Giants was bittersweet. I will admit to watching him hit homerun after homerun, and for rooting for him. I hated myself for doing so but man was it fun to watch. We were told to love the homerun. There was a marketing pitch aimed at females, saying “Chicks dig the long ball.” And then we found out that some of the players had to juice in order to give us what we wanted, to keep supplying the power surge through 162 games in about 200 days, more if their team makes the playoffs, even more based on how far that team goes in the playoffs. Factor in time spent doing interviews, radio spots and batting practice and the average baseball player must get tired along the way. We expect these men to be superheroes, and they aren’t. They just seem that way because they can do something most of us never will be able to. These men are a percentage of a percentage, and so we look at them and see the INVINCIBLE, but they are all as fallible as we are, sometimes more because of the way they are treated.
I was in a fancy restaurant (humble brag) with a friend, sitting at the bar watching a soccer game when the news came across the crawl that Melky Cabrera was suspended for using PED’s. My first thought wasn’t about him or what he was going through. Nope, as a selfish fan waiting to watch the Giants play against the Nationals that day the first thought I had was “Well, there go the playoffs.” Not something I’m proud to admit but it’s the truth. I thought about the effect it would have on my team, on my viewing experience. The Giants lost that day, but I’m not going to say that Cabrera would have made them win, nor that the distraction of learning about the suspension caused them to lose. They might have lost the game anyway because the Nationals are pretty good and Timmy was pretty bad. But now that I’ve have a chance to think about the suspension I’m sad for Melky because he felt the need to use PED’s, because he felt the need to create a false website to help him lie, and because he might not only have cost himself millions of dollars, he might have cost himself his career and, if Rick Sutcliffe had his way, his ability to remain in this country.
The Melk-Man had a resurgent year with Kansas City in 2011, hitting .305/.339/.470 (Average/On-Base/Slugging). Before that year, his best line was .280/.360/.391 in 2006 with the Yankees, so we know he can hit. Even though his average has fluctuated, he has always been able to get on base, and he’s always had power. He could never put it all together, and it seemed like he did with the Royals. There was no noise about steroids, and looking at his other numbers and the 2006 season I have to assume that last year was clean. Melky could have come to San Francisco and regressed a bit but still have been a fan favorite. The team might not have won as many games, but no one would have laid the blame at his feet for that. Now, as evidenced by the first thought that crept into my mind and the minds of a lot of the Giants fans I know, if the team misses the playoffs the blame will be solely on Melky for cheating in order to play well while trying to impress 30 different teams and fan bases to maximize his earning potential. Yes, I just said this is about money, but I don’t blame him. He should try and get as much money as he can from teams when he can, because no player knows when he’ll play his last game. Earn while you have the power to command a high dollar amount. I’m just sad he thought he had to cheat in order to earn that money. I’m really sad he did it while a member of my favorite baseball team because it only helps to fuel the stigma already enveloping the Giants. Guillermo Mota was suspended 50 games this season, and the Bonds steroid cloud will hang over the city forever. We didn’t need another prominent player being hit with a ban for PED’s, but we got one anyway, and it doesn’t look like he’ll get the Braun treatment, not with the false internet website he helped sponsor in order to fool the MLB in believing his innocence. It didn’t work, and he might receive more than the 50 game minimum for a failed first test. And if Judge Sutcliffe takes the case, he’ll be sent back home, stripped of his right to work and live in this country. That last may be a bit too far, but no matter what happens, Melky brought a lot of this on himself. The fans who love the long ball, however, helped push him towards it. We all have a bit of culpability in the PED crimes.
This has been an extraordinary year in baseball, but while we should enjoy the good that the game has brought us, we can’t ignore the fact that some of the excitement was also the product of the Braun steroids story and now the Melky Cabrera one. These men aren’t superheroes, and we need to stop treating them as such. They play a game, they entertain us, and they are willing to put their livelihoods and health on the line in order to earn more money. There is something wrong with the game, and the people who watch it, when that is the reality.