I asked Grant Brisbee of McCovey Chronicles to give us a little scouting report on our new left fielder, and asked about why he wasn't activated during the playoffs, if, perhaps, he wasn't a well liked teammate. Here is what he had to say:
Melky Cabrera was a phenomenon. The Giants scored six runs in 2011. Five of them were on the road. Suddenly, there's a #3 hitter with a cannon arm, and he's hitting .350 and winning the All-Star Game MVP. There were people dressing up in "melk man" costumes before the game. He was a folk hero, and the city took to him like no other first-year player I can remember since maybe J.T. Snow or Jeff Kent. Seeing as those two played before crowds of 10,000 every night, though, I'd wager Melky had the best first-year reception from Giants fans since Bonds.
The Giants were going to sign him for 20 years and $20 billion -- I mean, with at least a billion deferred, don't get me wrong -- but the fans were okay with that.
That also explains the gut punch when he was popped for testosterone. The Giants were tied with the Dodgers when the suspension was announced. They played the next game like they had a hangover, and they slipped a game back. It was the beginning of the end. The Giants, absent one of their best hitters, were going to become also-rans for the second season in the row. It was a given.
Buster Posey talked to the media about the suspension after it happened. He said all the right things -- put your head down, look for production in different places -- but he looked pissed. The word was that Melky didn't address his teammates after the suspension. He was the middle-of-the-order savior one day, and he was an empty locker the next.
So that didn't sit well. It's not that he wasn't liked by his teammates, but the break-up was a little weird. And he tried to get back in the team's good graces, announcing that he was recusing himself from the batting-title race (which was won by Posey), and making an understanding-if-slightly-disappointed statement after the Giants announced they weren't going to activate him for the playoffs.
But I'd wager this is the real reason the Giants didn't activate him for the playoffs: They were 30-14 after the suspension. They went from a tie to winning the division by eight games. His suspension wasn't going to be up for the first round of the playoffs, so it's not like the Giants were going to expend a lot of effort getting him ready for the NLCS just in case.
Long story short: There wasn't an uncomfortable sense of urgency. The Giants were winning like they hadn't all season. They were scoring runs. They were getting great defense from Gregor Blanco, if not great offensive production. When a team goes 30-14, they probably feel invincible. Why would they want that guy who did that thing back there? Who was that guy? That was in 2009, or something.
That's the abridged version of why he wasn't on the playoff roster. But if you're looking for a scouting report, here you go. He does everything well. At least, that's the version we saw. He has a good approach from both sides of the plate, using the whole field when he needs to. He runs the bases like he's trying to make the team out of spring training -- I was surprised at how quick he was for a big guy. He has an unbelievable arm, and it's accurate. He can lumber a bit in left, but he's still in the upper echelon of left-fielders.
The bat was BABIP-inflated. There's no question. If you go back and chart his hits, I wouldn't be surprised to find that the difference between .310 and .350 was a dozen ducksnorts and dribblers in the 6-5 hole. But I think he could be a true .310/.350/.450 hitter, which with his running and defense is a pretty sweet left fielder.
Now how much of that is the testosterone? That's a really, really legitimate question. He wasn't taking it because it made his toes tingle. When he was with the Braves in 2010, he really looked like the worst starting outfielder in the majors. No hyperbole. The worst. His bat looked like it was rolled in maple syrup and stuck to his ass before every swing. Yet when he showed up for the Royals, he was fantastic. Performance-enhancing drugs aren't supposed to work like Popeye with a can of spinach, but if you were ever going to suggest that they do, Melky is a case-study.
I can't help but think they don't work that well, that obviously. And I think he has a helluva lot left to prove, so he'll be motivated to keep in shape. I think that was a fantastic deal for the Jays, considering the other move they made, and the state of their lineup. The risk is real, but the reward is beautiful. If he's 70 percent of the player he was with the Giants, he'll be a steal. That doesn't seem that far-fetched.
Thanks so much for this Grant.