Thursday Morning Cram Session, 8/15

Melky Cabrera.  Melky.  Cabrera.  Dude.  What the hell, man?  What the hell were you thinking?

What a horrible, stupid, immature, and unforgivable mistake.  To test positive for “PE”Ds is one thing, but to do so as the 2nd best hitter on a probable playoff team is quite another.  It’s a mistake that could wind up sinking the Giants’ season and Melky’s foray into free agency this offseason.

To make this clear, The Common Man is not saying there’s something inherently evil about wht Melky was doing.  He’s not going to argue that “PE”Ds themselves are flatly evil or that using them is an absolute marker of bad character.  But in a testing culture like this one, where the consequences of testing positive for “PE”D use are absolutely clear, what Cabrera did was inexcusably selfish.  It would be one thing if his use only affected his free agent push.  But obviously, it does not.  It directly affects the playoff chances of the Giants and the careers of his teammates.

More troubling that Melky’s stupidity though, is the call from some quarters (such as ESPN’s Buster Olney) that this wouldn’t happen if the penalties for being caught using were increased:

This, of course, flies in the face of evidence that increasing the penalty for bad behavior doesn’t have a tremendous effect on curtailing the behavior.  Take the Death Penalty, for instance, which has been shown time and time again to be an ineffective deterrent against murder.  People will continue to try and get away with what they think they can get away with, especially when the potential rewards are so high.  What’s more, this unilateral toughening of sanctions against players totally ignores the fact that, by and large, the new testing system is a success.  Despite widespread testing, very few MLBers and MiLBers have tested positive for “PE”D use.  But when the tests have caught cheaters, baseball has punished them accordingly.  Recidivism is low.  And nobody (serious) is arguing that the game is in jeopardy because Melky Cabrera artificially raised his testosterone.  So raising the penalty seems like an ineffective and merciless solution in search of a problem that does not exist.  All these new proposed penalties will do is to mollify an easily offended media, deprive fans of a chance to watch some of the best players in the game, and reduce the chances of the player’s team to make the postseason even further.

Melky finishes the 2012 regular season hitting .346/.390/.516, an OPS almost a hundred poits higher than last year (itself more than 50 points higher than any previous mark in his career).  And while pundits are going to be quick to try and discount his season this year, it’s not at all clear that Cabrera’s monster performance had anything to do with his “PE”D use.  For one thing, there’s no evidence that “PE”Ds improve baseball performance is completely nonexistent.  For another, Melky’s not actually hitting the ball much better or further, he’s just finding more spots that the defense is not, and there’s every reason to believe his crazy BABIP was not sustainable.

Melky does, presumably, hurt his value as a free agent this offseason.  After two strong years, he was poised to enter the market as one of the top bats available, but his demonstrated immaturity and his recklessness throw a serious monkey wrench into that, and he may have to accept another short-term contract to rebuild his value yet again, demonstrate that he can be effective without whatever he took, and prove he’s not such a damn knucklehead.  And really, it’s that last part that seems the least likely to happen.

Pitcher of the Night: Felix Hernandez, Perfect Game, 12 Ks
Bill’s going to have a lot more to say about this game later today.  We’ll update this with a link when that happens.  In the meantime, what a tremendous effort by a tremendous pitcher.

Hitter of the Night: David DeJesus, 4-5, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB, CS
DeJesus hasn’t been the on base machine Theo and Jed envisioned when they signed him to a two year deal this offseason, but he certainly hasn’t been part of the Cubs’ problems either.  He doubles his seasonal homer total here, but also gets caught stealing.  He’s now successfully stolen a base 56 times, while being caught 51.  Whatever it takes to shackle him to 1B would be reasonable.

Play of the Night: Brendan Ryan

This doesn’t look that hard, necessarily, but Ryan is so smooth and his ability to focus on the ball instead of Kyle Seager diving in front of him and his cannon from the hole make a tough play look easy. Plus, the degree of difficulty is important here.  On a day where somebody throws a perfect game, nobody else’s great play means a damn thing.

Injuries of Note:
Neil Walker, dislocated finger
With the Pirates already struggling (more on that below), they lose one of the two guys they simply cannot lose.  It certainly depends how long he’s going to be out for and whether he can return with full strength in his hand, but it suddenly got a lot harder for the Pirates to make the playoffs.

Ephemera:

Marlins: Mark Buehrle, 7 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 3 K, 2 R
Say what you want about the rest of their club, which has Jeffrey Loria in a tizzy and Ozzie Guillen thinking of inserting himself into the lineup, Mark Buehrle gave them exactly what you’d expect out of Mark Buehrle: No walks, a couple of strikeouts, a few homers, and an ERA in the high threes.  That’s pretty much who he’s been since 2005.  It’s nice to know you can count on someone.

Tigers: Max Scherzer, 7 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 10 K, 0 R
All anybody will want to talk about is Felix, but Scherzer was brilliant, as he’s wont to do every once in a while.  In his last dozen starts, he’s got a 3.18 ERA and 98 strikeouts in 76.1 innings.  But he’s always just one bad start away from another downward spiral.

Tigers: Miguel Cabrera, 2-5, HR, 2 RBI
On Tuesday, Cabrera was the first to get to 100 RBI (congratulations to his teammates for getting on base in front of him, and yesterday he was the first to 30 homers (congratulations to him for being awesome).  That’s now 6 consecutive seasons he’s reached both marks.

Rockies: Eric Young, Jr., 2-4, HR, 2 R, RBI, BB
In his last 10 starts (11 total games), Young has hit .478/.510/.739 with 3 homers in 50 plate appearances.  In 610 other career plate appearances, he has 2 homers.

Nationals: Stephen Strasburg, 6 IP, 4 H, 4 BB, 7 K, 2 R
The death march to 180 innings continues unabated, as he’s got 40.2 frames to go.  But after walking four batters in each of his last two starts, maybe the Nats can justify giving him a few days off to get his control back where it usually is.

Red Sox: Adrian Gonzalez, 1-4, Ejection
It’s so cute that, on yesterday of all days, Bobby V got ejected defending this player of all players. Maybe they can kiss and make up now.  Then again, Bobby didn’t exactly come charging out of that dugout, did he Adrian?

Pirates: Wandy Rodriguez, 5.2 IP, 10 H, 1 BB, 1 K, 5 R
The Pirates have lost 7 of their last 9 now and given up 68 runs in those contests.  That’s scary for a club that has lived and died on its run prevention this year.  Wandy is now 0-3 with a 5.47 ERA since joining the Bucs.

Reds: Scott Rolen, 2-4, HR, 2B
Rolen was just one of many who beat up on RA Dickey yesterday, but it’s notable in that we don’t actually know how many more homers Scotty Rolen has left in him.  He’s got 314 on his career.  You want to know something weird?  Rolen is the only player in the top 43 3B all time in games played who never ever played another position.

Braves: Paul Maholm, 7 IP, 5 H, 3 BB, 7 K, 1 R
In his three starts for the Braves, Maholm has a 1.56 ERA and has struck out 20 batters in 23 innings.  No, TCM has absolutely no explanation for this either.

White Sox: Dewayne Wise, 2-4, HR, 4 RBI
Wait, Dewayne Wise is back with the White Sox?  This seems kind of noteworthy.  How come nobody told The Common Man?

Royals: Will Smith, 7 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 5 K, 2 R
And the Royals have a guy actually named Will Smith?  You guys are really, really falling down on the job here.

Diamondbacks: Chris Young, 0-2, BB, K
Someday, years from now, scholars will look back at this game and wonder how anybody let Gerardo Parra languish on the bench with Adam Wainwright pitching.

CLE-LAA

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