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Melky Cabrera and the Most Costly Failed Drug Test of All Time

Major League Baseball announced yesterday it would be suspending San Francisco Giants’ outfielder and All-Star Game MVP Melky Cabrera for 50 games following his testing positive for the performance-enhancing substance  testosterone. The news will be all over television screens, newspapers, and the minds of baseball reporters, fans, and executives—for a day or two at least. But with Cabrera in the midst of a career year and eligible for free agency this offseason, it could well haunt him for the rest of his life.

Cabrera is hitting .346 with 11 home runs, 60 RBI, 13 stolen bases, and a league-leading 159 hits for the Giants this season, his first in San Francisco. He came to the team from Kansas City after being traded for left-handed pitcher Jonathan Sanchez in November and quickly signed a one-year, $6 million deal to avoid arbitration. Cabrera enjoyed similar success playing for the Royals in 2011, hitting .305 with 18 home runs, 87 RBI, and 20 stolen bases. In the prime of his career at age 28 and coming off two great seasons at the dish, Cabrera was sure to receive a multi-year, big money contract this winter. The failed drug test and suspension will change that.

The statistical surge in his breakout season last year came in large part as a result of increased power numbers. Along with career highs in home runs (18) and OPS (.809), Cabrera hit 44 doubles, 16 more than his previous best. It’s impossible to measure what effect his use of testosterone had on those numbers, and even more difficult when it comes to its impact on his even more dramatic spike in batting average. It’s hard to argue that being bigger or stronger helps put the bat on the ball. Nonetheless, teams in need of a good hitter this offseason will be deservedly wary of giving a long-term contract to a player whose output may (or may not) have been significantly affected by his violating the sport’s drug policy.

Before this development, Cabrera might have been looking at a deal along the lines of those signed by (the arguably overpaid) Torii Hunter (five years, $90 million) or (the definitely overpaid) Aaron Rowand (five years, $60 million). But his current prospects will be closer to a few other outfielders on the list of players suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs. Namely Mike Cameron, Jose Guillen, and Manny Ramirez. It’s important to note that none of the players on the list of PED suspensions has ever signed anything longer than a two-year contract after failing a drug test. Most had to play it one year at a time for the rest of their careers, as teams were unwilling to grant them anything long-term both for PR reasons and the aforementioned suspicion that their stats would shrink absent the drugs. By failing this drug test the Melk Man has gone from being a name close to the top of every team’s letter to Santa to one who will be lucky to have more than a team or two willing to take a short-term flyer on him in the hopes that he can sustain his production. When things are all said and done, this one failed drug test could end up costing Cabrera more than $60 to 70 million and a whole lot of the peace of mind that comes from knowing where your next paycheck’s coming from.

And hey, that’s just the effects it’ll have on Cabrera and his wallet. Let’s not forget that baseball is a team sport, and that the 50 game suspension comes at a time when the 64-54 Giants are just one game behind the Dodgers in the NL West and deep in the midst of a playoff (and maybe even pennant) run. But the team only has 44 games left in the season, meaning Cabrera will also miss the play-in game should the Giants capture a wild card spot and at least part of their division series (if they make it that far) regardless of the nature of their playoff berth. That is, assuming they get one at all without Cabrera, who has been a large, but ultimately indefinable part of the team’s success. One thing is certain, the San Francisco front office comes off looking like a bunch of future-telling baseball geniuses, as the team traded for Hunter Pence in July. Without Pence, the team would be left with an incredibly shallow outfield. I mean, they were already shallow back there in the grass, that’s why they were willing to let go of Tommy Joseph, one of their top two or three prospects to get Pence in the first place.

Before I sign off, I’d like to note one more thing. As soon as the report of his failed drug test was released, Cabrera released a statement through the players’ union to apologize and admit his mistake, saying, ”My positive test was the result of my use of a substance I should not have used. I accept my suspension under the Joint Drug Program and I will try to move on with my life. I am deeply sorry for my mistake and I apologize to my teammates, to the San Francisco Giants organization and to the fans for letting them down.” Whether his words and regret are genuine or not, at the very least, Melky didn’t make excuses or try to hide behind lawyers, his union, or an appeals process. For that at least, I give him credit.

Follow the writer on Twitter @NateKreichman.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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Report: Lincecum, Giants remain far apart in contract talks

San Francisco Giants Tim Lincecum throws to the Philadelphia Phillies in the third inning at AT&T Park in San Francisco on August 7, 2011. The Giants defeated the Phillies 3-1. UPI/Terry Schmitt

The San Francisco Giants have had a rather quiet winter. Sure they made two trades in efforts to improve their weak offense, but acquiring outfielder Melky Cabrera for starter Jonathan Sanchez, and Angel Pagan for Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez was hardly the moves fans were expecting. The Giants essentially said that they would be frugal this offseason and thus far, they’ve kept their word.

But nobody expected the club to struggle re-signing one of its coveted pitchers, especially the ace of the staff.

According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, there is still a “sizable gap” in long-term contract talks between the Giants and Tim Lincecum. The club is believed to have improved upon its initial four-year offer from this summer, but Lincecum is thought to be seeking an eight-year deal.

Those close to the negotiations tell Heyman that both sides are weighing one-and-two-year contracts in case a long-term deal cannot be reached. Considering Lincecum already owns two Cy Young awards, helped the Giants win their first World Series title in San Francisco, and is coming off a season in which he posted a 2.74 ERA with 220 strikeouts, one would think San Francisco would jump at the chance to re-sign one of its prized pitching possessions. But apparently frugal is winning out at the moment.

The Giants also have a decision to make about No. 2 starter Matt Cain, who becomes a free agent at the end of the season. Cain posted career-highs in ERA (2.88) and WHIP (1.083), even though he only won 12 games last season. He’s been repeatedly burned by lack of run support over the years and if the Giants don’t want to pony up to keep him happy, maybe he’ll think about moving on after the 2012 season. He could potentially win 20 games with a team like the Yankees or Red Sox, who are constantly looking for good pitching.

If Buster Posey (leg) makes a full recovery, Pablo Sandoval keeps up on his offseason conditioning, and youngster Brandon Belt takes a major step in his development, the Giants’ offense won’t be as bad as it was in 2011. (Then again, how could be any worse?) But this club is built on its pitching so GM Brian Sabean has a lot of work to do in order to keep guys like Lincecum and Cain around long enough for the offense to finally blossom.

Five things we learned about opening weekend in MLB

The Baltimore Orioles’ Brian Roberts (1), Mark Reynolds (12) and Derrek Lee (25) celebrate with teammates and third base coach John Russell (77) following their 4-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays during their MLB American League baseball game in St. Petersburg, Florida, April 1, 2011. REUTERS/Brian Blanco (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

There’s a good chance that this post will be irrelevant in the next couple of weeks but I’m going to write it anyway. You can’t tell me what to do.

Here are five things we learned about opening weekend in MLB.

1. The Orioles are for real.
I’m kidding – relax. The Orioles are for real after just three games? That’s an over exaggeration on my part, although who can blame the Baltimore faithful for being excited about the start of the season? Their team just swept the Rays on the road and did so in rather convincing fashion, limiting Tampa to just three runs in three games. Considering how brash Buck Showalter was this offseason in his comments about Theo Epstein and Derek Jeter, it has to be refreshing for fans that the O’s came out of the gates hot. It’s also nice to see Brian Roberts (4-for-13, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 3 runs) get off to a good start after injuries limited his production last year, and guys like Nick Markakis make plays both offensive and defensively (what a catch he had over the weekend when he crashed into the wall). Given the young talent that this club has, it’s not a stretch to think that they could surprise this year in the AL. But if nothing else, at least there’s a little excitement in Baltimore again.

2. The Red Sox’ pitching is still a concern.
Again, again, again: It’s early. Just because the Rangers swept the Red Sox over the weekend doesn’t mean that the BoSox won’t make the playoffs or that they’re overrated. That said, this was about as bad of a start for the Red Sox as Yankee fans could ask for. They dropped three consecutive games to open a season for the first time since 1996, they were outscored 26-11 and their pitchers surrendered a whopping 11 home runs in just three games. Jon Lester gave up a career-high three home runs, while John Lackey served up two and Clay Buchholz gave up four solo shots. Granted, pitchers know that when they travel to Texas their chances of serving up a long ball are great. But 11 home runs in three days? Yikes. This was an ass kicking to say the least and one that brings Boston’s pitching concerns back into focus.

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Phillies or Giants: Which rotation would you rather have if you were starting a new organization?

Philadelphia Phillies all-star pitcher Roy Oswalt delivers a pitch during first inning San Francisco Giants-Philadelphia Phillies NLCS Championship game two at Citizens Bank Park October 17, 2010. . UPI/John Anderson

So you’re the general manager of the new Las Vegas Craps team and baseball commissioner Bud Selig comes to you with the offer of all offers.

He says, since the Craps are going to struggle this year offensively with a lineup comprised of over-the-hill veterans and unproven rookies, you get your pick of stealing either the Phillies or the Giants’ starting rotation.

“Sweet mother of all that is holy,” you say to Selig. “Those are the best starting rotations in the game!”

“Yes they are, Craps owner,” Selig says. “But you have to choose one right now.”

So which rotation would you rather have? Let’s take a look at the deets first.

Philadelphia Phillies

Roy Halladay
Age: 33
Salary: $20 million in 2011; $20 million in 2012; $20 million in 2013; $20 million option in 2014.
Career Stats: 169-86, 1,714 Ks, 3.32 ERA, 58 complete games, 19 shutouts
Accolades: Two-time Cy Young winner, two-time wins champion, seven-time All-Star.

Cliff Lee
Age: 32
Salary: $11 million 2011; $21.5 million in 2012; $25 million from 2013-2015.
Career Stats: 102-61, 3.85 ERA, 1,085 Ks
Accolades: Cy Young winner, two-time All-Star, 7-2 postseason record, 2.13 postseason ERA.

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2010 Year-End Sports Review: What We Already Knew

Let’s be honest: Sports bloggers know everything. Just ask us. As part of our 2010 Year-End Sports Review, our list of things we already knew this year includes Brad Childress’ biggest fail, Wade Phillips’ demise in Dallas and John Calipari’s troubles. We also knew Kevin Durant was the next great superstar (who didn’t see that coming?), Roger Clemens is the ultimate windbag and that “Matty Ice” knows fourth-quarter comebacks. We should have gone to medical school…

Contributors: Anthony Stalter, John Paulsen, Paul Costanzo, Drew Ellis and Mike Farley

LeBron is a frontrunner.

We all were a little surprised that LeBron left Cleveland, but the writing was on the wall. Growing up, LeBron didn’t root for the local teams. He followed the Yankees, Bulls and Cowboys, which in the 1990s constituted the Holy Triumvirate of Frontrunning. He wore his Yankee cap to an Indians game and was seen hobnobbing on the Cowboy sidelines during a Browns game. He says he’s loyal, but he’s only loyal to winners…unless they only win in the regular season, of course.

July 08, 2010 - Greenwich, CONNECTICUT, United States - epa02241974 Handout photo from ESPN showing LaBron James (L), NBA's reigning two-time MVP, as he ends months of speculation and announces 08 July 2010 on ESPN 'The Decision' in Greenwich, Connecticut, USA, that he will go to the Miami Heat where he will play basketball next 2010-11 season. James said his decision was based on the fact that he wanted to play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

Brad Childress’ biggest flaw cost him his job in the end.

There were many reasons why the Vikings decided to fire head coach Brad Childress roughly a year after they signed him to a contract extension. One of the reasons was because he lost with a talented roster. Another was because he never quite figured out how to best utilize Adrian Peterson, which is a sin given how talented AP is. But the main reason “Chilly” was ousted in Minnesota was because he didn’t know how to manage NFL-caliber personalities. He didn’t know how to handle Brett Favre, which led to blowups on the sidelines and multiple face-to-face confrontations. He also didn’t have a clue how to deal with Randy Moss’ crass attitude, so he released him just four weeks after the team acquired him in a trade from New England. Childress was hired in part to help clean up the mess in Minnesota after the whole “Love Boat” scandal. But the problem with a disciplinarian that hasn’t first earned respect is that his demands fall on deaf ears. In the end, Childress’ inability to command respect from his players cost him his job. You know, on top of the fact that he was losing with a talented roster, he didn’t know how to best utilize Adrian Peterson, he…

Love him or hate him, George Steinbrenner will forever be one of baseball’s icons.

You may have hated his brash attitude, the way he ran his team or the way he conducted his business. You may even feel that he ruined baseball. But regardless of how you may have felt about him, there’s little denying that George Steinbrenner will forever be one of Major League Baseball’s icons. Steinbrenner passed away in July of this year. He will forever be a man known for helping revolutionize the business side of baseball by being the first owner to sell TV cable rights to the MSG Network. When things eventually went south with MSG, he created the YES Network, which is currently the Yankees’ very own TV station that generates millions in revenue. During his tenure, he took the Yankees from a $10 million franchise to a $1.2 billion juggernaut. In 2005, the Yankees became the first professional sports franchise to be worth an estimated one billion dollars. While many baseball fans came to despise the way he ran his team (mainly because he purchased high priced free agents with reckless abandon due to the fact that he could and others couldn’t), don’t miss the message he often made year in and year out: The Yankees are here to win. He didn’t line his pockets with extra revenue (albeit he generated a lot of extra revenue for his club) – he dumped his money back into the on-field product. Losing wasn’t acceptable and if the Bombers came up short one year, you could bet that Steinbrenner would go after the best talent in the offseason, regardless of what others thought of the approach. How many Pirates and Royals fans wish they had an owner with the same appetite for victory?

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