May 6, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Toronto Blue Jays left fielder Melky Cabrera (53) hits a single in the tenth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. He would score the winning run in the inning. The Blue Jays defeated the Phillies, 6-5. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Drastic turnarounds are massive fodder for speculation in today’s baseball world. When a player looks like a broken down has-been one year and then suddenly appears to be a machine, the cloud of suspicion can fall on a player quickly. When that player is Melky Cabrera, apparently that cloud of suspicion hovers a little lower.
“I think if you did something wrong and you were caught and you pay your dues, that should be it. (Failing once) doesn’t mean that you’re always going to be doing something that’s illegal or not allowed.” – Jose Bautista
The drama started when Buster Olney, ESPN’s baseball insider, took a look at Cabrera’s monstrous comeback year and then put it under the microscope due to his previous positive steroid test in 2012. Olney’s assertion, is that because Cabrera is hitting like he did in 2012 and because of his past usage, then we must examine Cabrera as though he were using again. Additionally, he maintains that because of those past transgressions, we are free to pass judgement on Cabrera any way we sit fit.
Condemnation based on speculation if you would.
Now, Cabrera’s resurgence has been a huge story line for the Blue Jays thus far and there is no doubt that the 2014 version of Melky Cabrera is a much different beast than the one that could hardly walk during 2013. As you can see by the comparisons below, it isn’t even close.
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Of course, much can be said for the fact that Cabrera dealt with a benign tumor on his spine that left his legs weak and caused him unknown amounts of pain throughout the season in 2013. Without that strength in his legs, Cabrera could barely move last year, let alone put any power into his swing. With that tumor now removed, Cabrera is back to the hitter he was in 2011 and 2012, and the Blue Jays are benefiting from that.
To his credit, Olney does discount his standing based on the tumor, but he also makes it certain that it will (and should not) do anything to stop speculation about whether Cabrera is currently using anything to heighten his performance.
That’s where teammate Jose Bautista heard enough. In a discussion with Richard Griffin of The Star, Bautista came to the aid of his teammate, saying not that he presumes innocence, but that we should give Cabrera the benefit of the doubt until proven guilty.
"“I think if you did something wrong and you were caught and you pay your dues, that should be it. (Failing once) doesn’t mean that you’re always going to be doing something that’s illegal or not allowed.”"
That creates an interesting situation for both fans and media alike. Are we obligated to give a benefit of the doubt, especially in this day of heightened testing and given the additional tests Cabrera is likely given due to his past positive? Or are we obligated to scrutinize each and every player, past history notwithstanding, if they experience a burst in production or a drastic turnaround?
As a fan, and a content provider, I’m torn. I want to believe that we can and have moved past these silly shenanigans and witch hunts, but I’m also a believer in what I’ve seen as part of this generation. My endless optimism has been proven wrong time and again, but does that mean I bag it altogether and have my torch and pitchfork on standby while await the shoe to drop?
The fact is, both parties are wrong here. Both have put the fans in a position that we can’t pick a side because we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t. What happened to the days of enjoying a season for the baseball and not having to worry about the speculation of how we got there?
Can’t we just root the jerseys and not have to deal with the baggage?