Andrew Baggarly of Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area relays a little bit of ground breaking news today, informing us that Major League Baseball, in agreement with officials from the Players Association, has rendered suspended San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera ineligible to win the 2012 National League batting title.
Apparently, Mr. Cabrera and his representatives sent a letter to union officials earlier this week requesting that he be removed from consideration. The union and MLB worked out a one-time amendment to the official rules that granted his request.
Due to his 50 game suspension after testing positive for testosterone, Mr. Cabrera will finish the season with 459 at-bats, 501 plate appearances and a .346 batting average. In order to qualify for a batting title, a player must make an average of 3.1 plate appearances in each of his team’s regularly scheduled games. Because the Giants, like every other team in baseball, are scheduled to play 162 games, a player must make 502 plate appearances as a minimum if he wishes to be named the batting champion.
Since 1967, if the player with the highest batting average doesn’t meet this requirement, how ever many plate appearances he needs to qualify will be considered hitless at-bats. So, as far as consideration for the batting title goes, Mr. Cabrera would have had 159 hits in 460 at-bats and 502 plate appearances, which due to rounding, means that his batting average will stay at .346. This is good enough for first place in the National League, currently seven points ahead of the slumping Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The decision to alter the rules so as to exclude Mr. Cabrera is odd for may reasons, not least of which is the fact that the “batting title” isn’t really an award or anything that’s given to the player with the highest batting average. It’s a form of statistical bragging rights, not a piece of hardware. However, it’s easier to understand, I suppose, when it’s done following the request of the player.
The Giants outfielder issued a statement today, as well:
I am grateful that the Players Association and MLB were able to honor my request. I know that changing the rules mid-season can present problems, and I thank the Players Association and MLB for finding a way to grant my request.
Perhaps, Mr. Cabrera, already sufficiently embarrassed for testing positive would rather not attract any more attention from the moral grandstanding and soap-box pulpiteering set of sportswriters who jump at the chance to preach fire and brimstone whenever banned substances are involved. If that’s the case, I’m inclined to credit Major League Baseball and the union for acting quickly to adapt a rule that hindered more than it helped, even if it was only for this one time. I will also direct my corresponding scorn in the direction of those who derisively shamed a man into having to give up an honor that cannot be proven to have not been earned by the player, no matter what test results suggest.
Nonetheless, it all feels a little bit absurd, and I hope that this isn’t cited as a form of precedent for future appeals to the rules.
With Melky ineligible for the award, who would you vote to give the batting title to?
— Sky Kalkman (@Sky_Kalkman) September 21, 2012