Melky Cabrera, San Francisco Giant and All-Star Game MVP, tested positive for testosterone use and was suspended without pay for 50 games on Wednesday. To put it plainly, I'm angry.
I used to be a steroid apologist. As a Giants fan, it was hard not to be. Despite a stockpile of evidence taller than AT&T Park's Coke bottle to the contrary, I maintained that it was entirely possible that Barry Bonds never used performance enhancing drugs.
Even now, it's hard to admit that he maybe...probably...definitely did it.
Every time another name came out associated with steroids, especially big-timers (Clemens, A-Rod, Sosa, etc.), I felt vindicated. Watching well over 100 Giants games year after year, and hearing the boos for Bonds in all opposing stadiums grew tiresome. It became en vogue to boo Barry away from San Francisco, as he was the sole contemporary face of cheating in baseball.
Little did most bandwagoning, ignorant, some would argue racist fans of other teams know that an estimated majority of their players were also on the juice.
I never held steroid use against a baseball player. Formal, clear-cut drug policies were not laid out by the MLB until 2006. I don't believe use before that year to be grounds for rejection from the Hall of Fame, or public ridicule in general. But my stance is not a popular one.
The bottom line is that steroid use was the culture of competition in baseball from the late 1980s until 2005. If you weren't doing steroids, you weren't competing. The trend said more about players' collective priority balance of money (steroids=production=contract) over health (steroids=addiction, liver tumors, high blood pressure, aggression, etc.) than it did about willingness to cheat.
Players of the Steroid Era shouldn't be blacklisted or asterisked. Let's not forget multiple generations of baseball players that actively banned Black players from joining their ranks. None of them are barred from the Hall of Fame for that veritable decision to pad their stats.
But this is no longer the Steroid Era. Offensive numbers are down across all of baseball as a direct result of stringent drug testing that has all but eradicated steroid use from the game. There is no grey area anymore. If you are using performance enhancing drugs, you are cheating.
Melky knew better and did it anyway. Two years ago, with the Atlanta Braves, he hit an unimpressive .255 with four home runs and 42 RBI. Through 113 games this season (on testosterone), he swung a near league-leading .346 with 11 home runs and 60 RBI. Maybe it should have been obvious.
Now Cabrera leaves the Giants tied for first in the NL West with an upward-trending Dodgers team. He won't be eligible to hit the diamond again until the National League Championship Series, if the Giants manage to get that far.
He'll suffer in that he'll repel serious contract offers in free agency come October. He was said to be demanding close to $15 million before Wednesday's announcement. But the collateral damage goes further than his bank account. The Giants are left scrambling to fill the gap left by a legitimate NL MVP candidate, and fans are stuck trying to come up with justifiable talking points to support the argument that San Francisco isn't a steroids mecca.
A modest prediction: Years from now, legend will have it that a clandestine BALCO lab was camouflaged in left field at AT&T Park.
You still see Barry Bonds jerseys at every Giants home game, and he hasn't played in five years. That's because he was a Hall of Fame caliber, shining example product of the culture of his era. Rest assured you wont be seeing Melky's 53 scattered around McCovey Cove now or ever.
What was your reaction when you heard about this suspension? Leave your thoughts as a comment below.