Giants Will Collapse Without Cabrera

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SAN FRANCISCO - Nobody died. The terse adage is offered frequently as perspective for sporting disappointment. And for the San Francisco Giants and their disillusioned fans, that's true.

If you don't count dreams. Or hopes, both of which have expired.

Thursday was the first day of the rest of their baseball life, one to be conducted without Melky Cabrera, who to the credit of the testing system and the dismay of the team now destined to collapse got caught using a performance-enhancing drug, testosterone.

Stupid, of course, but people do stupid things, or we wouldn't have judges and attorneys. And prisons.

Selfish, too, because Cabrera, suspended for 50 games, hurts not only himself but the franchise so willing to trade a starting pitcher, Jonathan Sanchez, to obtain him from Kansas City.

The world seeks an edge. A gold-medal shot putter from Belarus was stripped of her title at the London Olympics for failing a drug test.

Even in Scrabble, the national championship of what is perceived by most as a gentle drawing-room game, a kid was caught cheating, pocketing blank tiles - as if they were aces hidden in a gunslinger's boot.

Cabrera? "He will just have to suffer the consequences,'' Giants pitcher Clay Hensley said. Hensley should be an expert. He was suspended 15 games after testing positive for steroids in 2005 when in the minors.

But this is more than one man paying a big price. "That is crushing, obviously, just to hear our best hitter's not going to be in the lineup,'' said Tim Lincecum, the pitcher who's gone from good to bad this season.

"Deflating,'' Giants general manager Brian Sabean said Thursday. "You've got no choice but to move on."

Move on without someone hitting .346 with 11 home runs and 60 runs batted in. Move on without someone who gives reason to wonder if he would have been that good without the PEDs. Two years ago in Atlanta, Cabrera batted .255 with only four homers.

Last season's National League MVP, Ryan Braun of Milwaukee, was suspended after winning the award but then avoided the suspension by challenging the way his test had been collected. Now this season's All-Star Game MVP, Cabrera, is suspended.

Can't anybody play this game legally and well?

When the Cabrera news broke Wednesday, as the Giants were losing to the Washington Nationals at AT&T Park, Barry Bonds was in attendance. Just the reminder the Giants needed. The prime candidate in all this PED business watching as the beat went on.

"In our case,'' agreed Sabean, who's been through it all, "it's two veteran players who should know the policy and the consequences."

Yet he wasn't alluding to Bonds, who never failed a test and was veritably exonerated - hey, what's obstruction of justice when you're charged with perjury? - in U.S. District Court.

Sabean meant Guillermo Mota, the reliever currently serving a 100-game suspension after getting nailed a second time, and, of course, Cabrera.

Sabean is also wise enough to realize knowing the policy doesn't mean adhering to it.

Victor Conte, who ran the infamous BALCO lab a few miles south of the Giants' home field and was convicted of creating designer drugs for track stars and ballplayers, said numerous major leaguers are loading up and getting away with it.

Conte was on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area advising, "There is a rampant use of synthetic testosterone in Major League Baseball." To which MLB Vice President Rod Manfred adamantly responded, "He's just making that up."

Now that he's gone, maybe forever since Melky is a free agent whom the Giants may choose not to re-sign, the Cabrera story seems almost made up.

He hit and fielded, and from a crowd all too naïve and all to eager, the accolades flowed.

Pablo Sandoval became the "Kung Fu Panda,'' and literally thousands began to wear panda headwear. Brandon Belt, lanky, was nicknamed "The Baby Giraffe" by announcer Duane Kuiper for the awkward way he tracked balls. Immediately dozens of stuffed giraffes were being clutched and waved.

Cabrera had the "Melkmen,'' which became the "Milk Men," and the response was people dressing up in white shirts, white pants and hats with leatherette visors.

Melky spoke little English in interviews, preferring to use Spanish and a translator. But he seemed to be enjoying the success and the attention. Who wouldn't? Did he dare dream it all would end in a poof of embarrassment, Cabrera conceding his "positive test was a result of something I should not have used."

Gregor Blanco has taken Cabrera's spot in the lineup, and from Fresno in the Pacific Coast League, the Giants called up Justin Christian to take his place on the roster.

Cabrera kept religious icons in a locker now cleared out and said not long ago of his season: "The one person who has the most influence on me is the Lord. He is the one who embraced me in terms of playing better."

The Lord and testosterone.

As a reporter since 1960, Art Spander is a recipient of the Dick McCann Memorial Award -- given for his long and distinguished career covering professional football -- and a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He's also honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the PGA of America. His columns appear in RealClearSports on Wednesdays and Fridays.

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