|Melky, Melky, Melky ... What have you done? (Getty Images)|
- Impact on the playoff race ... for several teams: The loss of Cabrera is made more significant by the tight race in the NL West. The drop-off from Cabrera to Gregor Blanco, his likely replacement in left field, should amount to no more than one or two wins given the late hour of the season (it's the middle of August, after all, and most fans tend to overrate the importance of one single player in a sport like baseball). However, that could be enough to alter the outcome not only of the NL West (the Giants and Dodgers are tied for first at this writing) but also the wild-card fray, which is predictably crowded and compressed. It's also worth noting that the Dodgers will get to play the Melky-free Giants nine more times before the season ends.
- Nate Schierholtz will be missed: On that front, the Giants would really, really like to have Schierholtz back right about now (yes, he's injured, but it's a broken toe that didn't predate the trade to Philadelphia). There may not have been a tenable way to pry Hunter Pence away from the Phillies without including Schierholtz in the deal, but he'd make for a nifty replacement right about now.
- Cabrera can still win the batting title: He'll close the books on his regular season with 501 plate appearances. That puts him one shy of qualifying. Insofar as batting titles are concerned, a hitless AB can be added to a player's total in order to bring him up to qualifier status. So, for purposes of the NL crown, Cabrera's batting average is 0.3464. The Pirates' Andrew McCutchen presently leads the NL race with an average of .359. A slump down the stretch could mean the award falls to Cabrera, who ranks second. Needless to say, Cabrera would be perhaps the most awkward batting champion in baseball history.
- Shake-up in the free agent market: It will be fascinating to see how the market treats Cabrera this offseason. He's eligibe for free agency this winter, and normally a 28-year-old coming off a career year would be in for a healthy payday. But the positive PED test raises concerns on a number of fronts. As well, Cabrera's success in 2012 is driven by a high batting average, which is a statistic many front offices (rightly) believe to be prone to random variation. On the other hand, should all those factors severely depress offers, then some enterprising team might score a real bargain with Cabrera. In any event, the 50-game suspension is his sanctioned punishment. Any sort of informal black-balling -- such as what happened to Barry Bonds following the 2007 season -- is out of bounds.
- Give the testing policy some credit: There don't seem to be many drug-testing conspiracy theorists out there, but the Cabrera scandal should, for good and all, put the lie to the notion that notable players are tipped off to testing dates or that compromising results are tucked away or whatever else tortured imaginations come up with. The 2011 NL MVP, Ryan Braun, suffered a positive test (eventually overturned), and now the 2012 All-Star Game MVP, Cabrera, is facing a 50-game suspension. If ever some shadowy figure at mission control wanted to make some test results go away for the benefit of the league's image, then Cabrera's would be beg for such treatment. The current news cycle is the stuff of Bud Selig's sweaty and fitful nightmares.
Now back to, you know, actual baseball.