The latest “oh noes, Melky can’t win the batting title!” column

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The argument that Melky Cabrera should not be allowed to win the 2012 batting title because of his drug suspension was dumb a couple of weeks ago and it’s dumb again today. From Morosi:

The batting race, though, is one instance in which MLB must act — and it doesn’t need to be that complicated.

MLB should add an additional criterion for the batting and ERA titles: Players suspended for a PED offense must be automatically disqualified, because their violations gave them an unfair statistical advantage, on top of the obvious cheating … MLB can’t allow players to benefit statistically by stopping the clock on their season through PED use. That’s like a high-school student receiving an “A” on a test he missed because he was suspended for fighting in the cafeteria.

Setting aside the fact that many, many hitters have won batting titles despite having the advantage of a shorter season, Morosi falls far short of making a compelling case here. Sure, he talks about all the ways baseball could deal with the Melky problem — it would be easy to disqualify him, I’ll grant that —  but he never makes a case as to why baseball, or any of us, should care if Melky Caberea wins the batting title in the first place.

As Matthew noted a couple of weeks ago, the batting title isn’t an an award. It is not some endorsement by the league or an honor bestowed on a worthy competitor. It is a statistical measure and nothing more. It is a function of math, and it only matters to people in direct proportion to the weight they place in it.

And it’s certainly not significant like an MVP award. Quick: name two of the past ten NL batting champions. I bet you can’t. Because, sadly, winning a batting title did not place Freddy Sanchez into some Hall of Immortals atop a great mountain someplace. It just happened and why in the hell should any of us who are not related to Mr. Sanchez care?

Same goes for Melky. If he wins the batting title, it will be remembered only because of its dubiousness. The world will not end. It will not impact the economy or the schools and it will not send any child off into a life of crime. It would affect nothing other than the level of indignation people who like to be indignant about such things feel.

As I said last month, the idea of stripping people of awards and attempting top scrub history is nothing more than emotion-driven post-hoc righteous reactionary retribution. If you want to change the rule going forward and make a guy ineligible to be the batting champ or home run champ or whatever after a suspension, fine, do it. That’s how laws and rules work: prospectively.  But suddenly saying “Melky can’t be the batting champ!” is a silly emotional balm for people who should know better than to put that much damn weight into a statistical contest.

The Cubs live for another day, but death will come soon

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The Cubs had a nice night last night. Javier Baez finally broke his hitless streak with not one but two homers. Willson Contreras hit a nearly 500-foot homer. Jake Arrieta, possibly pitching for the last time as a Cub, dug down for a gutsy performance, pitching into the seventh inning, working around some walks to allow only one run while striking out nine.

After the game, Cubs players sounded hopeful notes about believing in themselves, taking them one game at a time, getting the series back to L.A. for a Game 6 and Game 7. They’re professional athletes who know better than any of us that to achieve a thing you have to believe you can achieve that thing, so it’d be dumb to expect anything else from them in this situation. Ballplayers, quite admirably, don’t sound a note of defeat until they are actually defeated.

But let’s be realistic there: they’re still a dead team walking.

  • They’re dead because, as we have been reminded oh so many times, only once in 35 tries has a team come back to win a seven game series in which they’ve found themselves down 0-3. That team did so because Dave Roberts worked some magic. Dave Roberts is working for the other team now.
  • They’re dead because their biggest weakness this postseason — their bullpen — is not going to have its best pitcher, Wade Davis, available today in Game 5 after throwing 48 pitches in Game 4.
  • They’re dead because while the Dodgers used five relievers last night, none of them were worked particularly hard and neither Brandon Morrow nor Kenley Jansen were used at all, allowing them to come in and work hard and heavy tonight if need be.
  • They’re dead because the man on the mound to start tonight’s game is Clayton Edward Kershaw. Yes, he has had some less-than-glory-filled moments in the postseason in recent years, but all of those have come at the tail end of starts, when his managers have left him in perhaps an inning too long. See the above bullet point — and Dave Roberts’ early hook in Game 1 — if you think that’ll be a problem tonight.

The Dodgers lost last night, yes, but it was their first loss in the postseason. All teams have lost at least one postseason game since it went to the three-round format, so it was likely inevitable that L.A. would drop one. Heck, maybe they’ll drop two before the NLCS is over, but they’re not going to drop the next three in a row.

Last night’s Cubs win was nice for them, but it only delayed the inevitable.