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National Columnist

OK, Bud Selig, make it so cheating Cabrera can't win NL batting title


Cabrera's .346 average could lead the league when the regular season ends. (US Presswire)  
Cabrera's .346 average could lead the league when the regular season ends. (US Presswire)  

You see how this one ends, right? The National League batting race is like a bad horror movie -- only that dude in the corner isn't some psycho in a hockey mask.

It's Melky Cabrera. Hitting .346. Cheating his way to the title.

And there's nothing we can do about it. I mean, nothing but hope. Hope that NL leader Andrew McCutchen rights himself after an 11-game slump that has sent his batting average tumbling into Cabrera's neighborhood. Or hope that .342-hitting Joey Votto comes off the disabled list after two knee surgeries in a month and lifts his batting average five points.

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Baseball could do more than hope if its commissioner wasn't the kind of guy who looks trouble squarely in the face and shrugs, but that's what Bud Selig does. He shrugs, but he shrugs with a pained look on his face -- because he cares so gosh-darned much.

Just not enough to do anything.

As the batting title -- still a milestone with cachet in baseball -- veers toward unthinkable territory, we're left to hope McCutchen can right himself after hitting .200 in his past 11 games before Sunday, dropping his lead on Cabrera from a comfortable 26 points to a much tighter 10 points. Two weeks ago McCutchen was hitting .372, but after going 0 for 5 on Saturday against the Cardinals, he's down to .356. And the pressure will only ratchet up.

Meanwhile, sitting in the clubhouse at .346 is Cabrera, who can take it easy and watch the festivities. Imagine a golfer at the Masters, kicked off the course on the 12th hole on Sunday for cheating, but still allowed to keep his score in relation to par -- and watch as the rest of the field comes back to him.

That's Cabrera right now. This career .275 hitter from 2005-11 cheated his way to .346 in 113 games this season, then failed a drug test. His season is done, but his .346 batting average sits there like a bad joke.

Cabrera is one short of the 502 plate appearances required to qualify for the batting title, but baseball has a rule that adds at-bats to a contending player's total until he reaches 502 plate appearances.

The rule is designed to help injured players, not cheaters, but Cabrera could profit handsomely. He has 159 hits in 459 at-bats (and 501 plate appearances), and if his .346 average leads the league when the season ends, baseball would add one at-bat to his total, giving him 460 -- and 502 plate appearances. His batting average would dip from .3464 (rounded down to .346) to .3456 (rounded up to .346).

Can you imagine?

Times like this, I wish baseball had a commissioner like Roger Goodell. There aren't many times, frankly, because Goodell scares me. He's the prosecutor, judge, jury and appellate court of the NFL, and that's too much power for one man. He also seems to make up stuff as he goes along, but this would be a fine time for the commissioner of baseball to make something up. Invent a rule that says only non-suspended players can have plate appearances added to their final total so they reach 502. Or cut through the crap and invent a rule that says a cheater can't win the batting title, period.

It's not hard, right? To do the right thing, even if the rulebook doesn't address such a situation?

This situation has never existed until this season -- and don't bring up Barry Bonds winning the 2001 home run title or the '02 or '04 batting titles, then being linked to steroids by the Mitchell Report years later. Cheating Melky Cabrera is in contention for the 2012 batting title, and the 2012 season isn't even over. Busted, before he wins the title. So how hard can it be for Bud Selig to stop it from happening?

Hell, maybe that's not what baseball needs. Maybe what baseball needs is another dose of steroids shame, 1990s style. It's not like the first dose eradicated the problem. Maybe we need another, including a batting title for Cabrera, an NL West title for the team that got 113 cheating games out of its left fielder, and then -- for good measure -- a World Series title for the San Francisco Giants. In Game 7. Which would be played in San Francisco, since the National League earned home-field advantage by winning the All-Star Game.

MVP of the All-Star Game? Melky Cabrera.

The winning pitcher for Game 7 could be Guillermo Mota, whom the Giants signed in 2010, three years after he failed a drug test. Mota failed a second drug test this season, earning a 100-game suspension, but he's eligible to return in late August -- in time to be on the postseason roster. Cabrera also would be able to play in the World Series, since his 50-game suspension would have been long over.

Maybe that's what baseball needs -- the most humiliating finish possible to this season. That said, I'd rather go the more palatable route: Cheaters don't win, and that starts with Melky Cabrera and the 2012 batting title.

Stop shrugging, Bud Selig, and be the commissioner baseball needs -- not just the commissioner baseball has.

Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.

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