The news is now out and the public is well aware: Melky Cabrera was suspended yesterday for 50 complete games for failing a drug test by Major League Baseball, meaning the San Francisco Giants outfielder is lost for the duration of the 2012 season and a bit beyond. What was interesting about this particular suspension is that the player didn't deny the facts or even shy away from them. Instead he met them head on.
Shortly after the news broke, Cabrera released a statement about the matter:
"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 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."
Typically a player will say that the results of the test were tainted. Perhaps he didn't realize what he had taken. Plans to appeal the decision are often thrown around at this point to at least create an opening in the court of public opinion for the most diehard fans -- so at least a tiny section of Pac Bell Park will say, "I just don't believe he really did it."
Instead Cabrera went the direct route. He was honest, concise and vulnerable. He said he did it, offered an apology to all parties involved and went silently into the suspended night.
It was the right move and one that might save his reputation in the end.
I recently watched an episode of a BBC documentary series about oceans, and this particular episode was focused upon the unexplored ocean depths. At the bottom of the deep, in places where men have never been before, animals feast on the old bones of a sperm whale years after it had died. Somehow these rare invertebrates can find food even when there is none.
We're living in the age of a 24/7 information/media cycle that never stops feasting on whatever is laying around. Even if the meat of a story is long gone, sportswriters have no problem looking for life where there isn't any. Anyone else really want to read another Dream Team vs. Current Team USA debate? Me either. It's easy to point to the Skip Baylesses of the sporting world and say how wrong they are. But it's not just the talking heads, the sporting media versions of Rush Limbaugh that drive us crazy.
Roger Clemens. Mark McGwire. Rafael Palmeiro. Barry Bonds. Did they or didn't they? That was the ongoing debate for ages. Sportswriters circled for every angle and the drama continued to play out for each when it came to the steroids scandal that's plagued baseball for the last several years. Does the Hall of Fame await? It may or may not, but these stories will not go away for a long time -- until these guys are firmly in the Hall.
Then there's Jose Canseco. He admitted it, sure, but only to advance his odd post-baseball career. He's an odd mix of a D-list celeb, reality contestant, former icon and author(?) who won't go away. In short, it's easy to become just as annoying by taking an opposite approach from the ongoing denials of others.
Now we find Melky in the Middle, for lack of a better term (but I couldn't help the pun). Simple. Direct. Concise. While it's a sad statement that the rumors were true, it was a statement and nothing more. It was, "Guilty as charged and now I will go serve my time." An apology without waiting to see if the apology would be enough to get him out of the punishment.
True contrition. That's what it seems like. In an age of flat-out denial against a mountain of evidence or a circus of attention around an admission of guilt, Melky's treatment of this frustrating scenario is a breath of fresh air. It doesn't at all make up for his wrongdoing. He let his fans and teammates down and added another cloud to the game of baseball. He might never recover -- both in his reputation and his performance.
However if Melky is one day roaming an outfield enjoying the game of baseball again with a group of fans behind him who are still cheering his name, you can bet that his ability to handle himself so tactfully, professionally and honestly in this season of life was what got him through.