Now more than ever, Melky Cabrera for MVP


Now more than ever, Melky Cabrera for MVP

Everybody done hating Melky Cabrera yet? Got your prohibitionist rage out of your system?

Good, because as of right now, he is so much the Giants most valuable player that a vote for anyone else can only be regarded as election fraud.

Hey, you slice it any way you want. Complain about the effects of synthetic testosterone, or dishonesty, or even Web-based fraud until youre red in the eyes.

I know this, though. They got to 64-53 with him in left field, tied with the Los Angeles Planet-Eaters. They are 9-4 without him.

That means "cause" just put a steel-capped boot right in the groin of "effect." It also means, at least if you squint hard enough and forget the laws of small sample size, that Cabrera jump-started the Giants while present, and has spurred them forward while absent.

If that isnt MVP stuff, then . . . well, youre just wrong, okay?

It is of course far too early to assign such things, because 33 games is a century when youre only three and one-half games ahead. It is of course an eternity when youre 39 games back, but thats CSN Houstons problem, not yours.

The point is this: When people shrieked about how Cabreras absence would destroy the Giants, they assumed one fact not yet in evidence: Nobody knows the future.

The As lost Bartolo Colon a week ago but are 6-1 since because they traded his testosterone-enriched arm from Brett Andersons, which must be regarded rationally as an upgrade.

And the Dodgers have not shot into the stratosphere since their megatrade with Boston because apparently Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez do not yet equal the loss of Chad Billingsley and Matt Kemp, and have no power against the world-bending powers of the Colorado Rockies.

So yes, nobody knows the future.

But we know what we know up to this moment, and the Giants were doing well enough without Cabrera, and to date the trauma of losing him has only made them better. Or maybe it isnt trauma, but ire. Maybe they do better on the business end of the steel-capped boot.

And you cant prove otherwise. Yet.

This isnt just the benefit of the Giants gooey, crme-filled schedule either, because that part has barely begun. Since getting Melkyd, the Giants beat San Diego, swept the Dodgers, split with Atlanta and then played the Astros, which implies that they beat the Astros because meeting the Astros is the same as beating the Astros.

Thats 9-4, and 9-4 is 9-4 every time, because in baseball, style points are replaced with bulk.

Would we recommend getting your best hitter suspended under shady and humiliating circumstances? Not as such. But baseball has shown time and again that easily understood causes do not automatically produce the predicted result. Losing Melky Cabrera, in short, has caused no immediate harm to a team that we have always assumed doesnt have enough hitting to survive such a blow.

The As, we can see, merely traded up, although losing Colon would have enhanced the other spots in the rotation. And the Dodgers have not yet figured out how to stop treading water even after two deals that logically should make them dramatically better.

The Giants, though, are used to defying logic. Losing Cabrera threw the fan base for a loop, but the team neither mirrored nor shared that feeling of doom. Betrayal? Maybe. Doom? No evidence. Inspiration through subtraction? Maybe.

But the MVP doesnt go to a team, so were going with Cabrera. He helped make their offense credible, and through his disgrace they became at least nominally better for the moment.

And if you believe the schedule is a healthy barometer of the future, theyre not likely to get dramatically worse. You can ascribe that to any reason you like; were going for the moment with the ghost of the left fielder, just as we would have gone with the actual left fielder two weeks earlier.

So it is, at least for the foreseeable future Melky Cabrera, Most Valuable Player. Sounds like the Giants may get some use out of those T-shirts after all especially if he becomes the first player to win the batting championship from his hammock.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for

After Stratton leads way in Giants' shutout, what does his future hold?

After Stratton leads way in Giants' shutout, what does his future hold?

SAN FRANCISCO — After the final out Monday night, a round table was carried into the corner of the home clubhouse at AT&T Park and surrounded by chairs. Eleven players were sitting, eating, drinking and laughing as Chris Stratton prepared to address the media. 

It was a rare sight for the Giants these days, a very rare sight. But then, so was Monday’s result. Stratton led the way in a 2-0 win over the Brewers that was the first home shutout of the season and motivated the joyous post-game scene. 

The shutout was just the second of the season for the staff. Ty Blach went the distance in the other one and Stratton, a fellow rookie, did the heavy lifting Monday, throwing six strong innings before giving way to the bullpen. Matt Cain pitched the seventh, Mark Melancon pitched the eighth while going back-to-back for the first time in three months, and Sam Dyson closed it out quickly. 

There’s a chance that Stratton joins that group in a few days. Johnny Cueto is scheduled to make a rehab start on Tuesday night in Sacramento and that could put him on track to return to the rotation a turn later. That would line up with Stratton’s next start, but Bruce Bochy wasn’t ready to kick the young righty out of the rotation, not after back-to-back scoreless starts against two of the better lineups in the league. A few days after striking out 10 Washington Nationals, Stratton cut through the Brewers. He has 12 2/3 scoreless innings over his past two appearances. 

“For how we’re using him, he’s really handled it well,” Bochy said. “We skipped him, moved him back three or four days, but he doesn’t let it faze him. This is an important time for these young players coming up, whether it’s (Ryder) Jones or (Jarrett) Parker or Stratton. They’re trying to show they belong in the Major Leagues.

“You’re hoping these guys show they’re ready to play here and we don’t have to do something else because we can do it internally.”

Bochy said he could use a six-man rotation when Cueto returns, or a starter could be skipped. That will all sort itself, but the manager made one thing clear. 

“We’d like to pitch him as much as we can,” Bochy said of Stratton.

That’s the same thing Bochy used to say of another right-hander, one he compared Stratton to before Monday’s game. Bochy was asked about Yusmeiro Petit, and he smiled and fondly stated, “He was so good. So good.” The Giants see some Petit in Stratton. He is unaffected by long layoffs and he’s capable of starting, relieving, or even pumping his fastball up a couple ticks for short outings. 

Petit was a mainstay in San Francisco for years, a key cog in a championship team. Bochy has been looking for that piece since Petit departed in free agency, and Stratton seems like he might be suited for the role. He will want more, of course, because all pitchers do. The Giants will give him five more weeks here to try and earn that. 

For the moment, Stratton’s focus is elsewhere. He turns 27 on Monday and the celebration started early. As Stratton answered questions, veterans at the table heckled him about striking out just one Brewer. 

“I left all the strikeouts in Washington, I guess,” Stratton said. 

Nick Hundley walked up with a TV remote and held it up between the cameras. 

“What was your thought on the punchout?” he asked. 

“I’m glad he swung,” Stratton said, smiling. “It was a ball.”

“Did you think about getting any more?” Hundley asked. 

With that, he smiled and ducked back behind the cameras to return to the celebration in the corner. A few minutes later, Stratton joined him.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' first home shutout of 2017

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' first home shutout of 2017


SAN FRANCISCO — Ty Blach has been a bright spot in this losing season, giving the Giants a young, cost-controlled lefty who can potentially fill a huge role next season. Chris Stratton is trying to do the same thing from the right side. 

The 26-year-old continued his August surge, throwing six dominant innings against the Brewers in a 2-0 win that was the staff's first shutout at AT&T Park this season. 

It was the kind of night that's been so familiar over the years. The Giants had six home shutouts last season. Here are five things to know from this year's first ... 

—- The Brewers are first in the league in homers and the Nationals are third, so Stratton had his work cut out for him the last two times out. His results: 12 2/3 innings, 9 hits, 0 runs, 3 walks, 11 strikeouts. That’s quite the statement. Stratton’s scoreless streak is the longest by a Giants rookie starter since Chris Heston threw 16 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings in July of 2015. 

—- Matt Cain was used as a short reliever to protect a two-run lead in the seventh. He had a 1-2-3 inning that ended with a strikeout. 

—- Mark Melancon pitched back-to-back games for the first time since May 19-20. He struck out Neil Walker and Ryan Braun in a perfect inning. 

—- Jarrett Parker reached base his first three times up. He’s hitting .385 at home this season but he’s just 4-for-35 (.114) on the road. Weird splits for a Giant slugger. 

—- Brandon Crawford is finally finding some traction. His double in the fourth was the big hit in a two-run frame that gave Stratton a lead to work with. Crawford is 7-for-17 on the home stand with three extra-base hits and four RBI.