The Melky Cabrera Affair: When Fair Isn’t Fair

A useful tool, when the government decides that what you did should have been illegal.

Let me bring the non-baseball fans among you up to date, reminding you that while the immediate subject is baseball, the ethical implications of this story are far broader.

Melky Cabrera, until last season, was a standard issue major league outfielder of substantial but undistinguished abilities and accomplishments. Last season, playing with the frequent destination of such players, the Kansas City Royals, Cabrera suddenly and unexpectedly emerged as a star, surpassing all expectations and his previous levels of performance. The Royals traded him, like an over-priced stock, to the San Francisco Giants in the off-season, getting a package of players in exchange for one they probably thought was as valuable as he would ever be.

This season, however, he was even better.  Not only was he selected to the All-Star team for the first time, he was also on the way to leading the Giants to the play-offs and possibly a World Series appearance. Then, this week, a drug test came in positive for testosterone: steroids. By MLB’s rules, Cabrera was suspended from play for 50 games, effectively eliminating him from the Giants season and post season and, not incidentally, marking him as a cheat and an idiot.

And maybe a batting champion. When he was suspended, Cabrera was second in the National League in batting average, and had already amassed the necessary at bats to qualify for the championship (actually, there are some complications with that, but for all intents and purposes, that’s true). He’s only 13 points behind the leader, and averages tend to come down as the season drags on. Not only is Cabrera’s high average a likely product of pharmaceutically-aided cheating, but his suspension for getting caught at cheating may actually help him win the prestigious batting crown, by freezing his average at a lofty .346. Is this fair? Certainly not. Continue reading