The question had been looming since the day of his PED suspension: would Melky Cabrera of the Giants be allowed to win the batting title? Cabrera, who leads the league in batting average with .346 has been stuck on the number ever since. Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates is currently in second with a .339 average.
Today, MLB and the MLBPA addressed the matter by making changes to the rules that will prevent a player with a PED suspension from winning the individual batting, slugging or on-base percentage champion, by making a change to the last sentence of Official Baseball Rule 10.22(a). That now shall not be applicable for the 2012 season for any player who failed to obtain 502 plate appearances if such player served a drug suspension for violating the Joint Drug Program.Â
In an interesting twist, the agreement was reached at the request of Cabrera, who was suspended for 50 games without pay on August 15, 2012 after testing positive for testosterone, a performance-enhancing substance in violation of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association jointly announced today that for purposes of determining the individual batting, slugging or on-base percentage champion, the last sentence of Official Baseball Rule 10.22(a) shall not be applicable for the 2012 season for any player who failed to obtain 502 plate appearances if such player served a drug suspension for violating the Joint Drug Program. This agreement was reached at the request of San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera, who was suspended for 50 games without pay on August 15, 2012 after testing positive for testosterone, a performance-enhancing substance in violation of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
Â â€śAfter giving this matter the consideration it deserves, I have decided that Major League Baseball will comply with Mr. Cabreraâ€™s request,â€ť said Commissioner Selig. â€śI respect his gesture as a sign of his regret and his desire to move forward, and I believe that, under these circumstances, the outcome is appropriate, particularly for Mr. Cabreraâ€™s peers who are contending for the batting crown.â€ť
â€śMelky Cabrera, through a written request to me, asked the for the Unionâ€™s assistance in removing him from consideration for the 2012 National League batting title,â€ť said MLBPA Executive Director Michael Weiner.Â â€śWe complied with Melkyâ€™s wish and brought the matter to the Commissioner's Office, which agreed to suspend the rule. We commend Melky's decision under these circumstances."
â€śI have no wish to win an award that would be taintedâ€ť said Cabrera in a statement. â€śI believe it would be far better for someone more deserving to win. I asked the Players Association and the league to take the necessary steps to remove my name from consideration for the National League batting title.
"I am grateful that the Players Association and MLB were able to honor my request by suspending the rule for this season. I know that changing the rules mid-season can present problems, and I thank the Players Association and MLB for finding a way to get this done.â€ť
Seth Levinson of ACES, Inc., Cabreraâ€™s agent, added: â€śI am not surprised by Melkyâ€™s request. Melky is a truly humble person, and he is embarrassed by his mistake and sincerely regrets letting down his teammates, the Giants organization, and the fans. Since his suspension, Melky has been adamant that he did not want the batting title award, and that he wanted to solely focus on working hard to return to baseball so he could be in a position to win that award with honor.â€ť
At the time Cabrera was suspended, he had 501 plate appearances and a .346 batting average, which led the National League. 502 plate appearances qualify a player for a batting championship.
The rule now reads:
Rule 10.22(a): â€śThe individual batting, slugging or on-base percentage champion shall be the player with the highest batting average, slugging percentage or on-base percentage, as the case may be, provided the player is credited with as many or more total appearances at the plate in league championship games as the number of games scheduled for each club in his clubâ€™s league that season, multiplied by 3.1 in the case of a Major League player. Total appearances at the plate shall include official times at bat, plus bases on balls, times hit by pitcher, sacrifice hits, sacrifice flies and times awarded first base because of interference or obstruction. Notwithstanding the foregoing requirement of minimum appearances at the plate, any player with fewer than the required number of plate appearances whose average would be the highest, if he were charged with the required number of plate appearances shall be awarded the batting, slugging or on-base percentage championship, as the case may be.â€ť
Note: Bold text indicates the portion of the rule that will not apply to a player who has been suspended for violating the Joint Drug Program during the 2012 season.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He writes for Baseball Prospectus and is a contributor to Forbes. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).
Follow Maury Brown on Twitter
Follow The Biz of Baseball on Twitter
Follow the Business of Sports Network on Facebook