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

Giants spring training day 8: Melancon, Hundley go way back

Giants spring training day 8: Melancon, Hundley go way back

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — A couple of days before he signed a four-year deal, Mark Melancon fired off a midnight text to Nick Hundley. 

“Call me,” Melancon wrote.

When Hundley called, he found out his college teammate had chosen the Giants, ending a free agency process the two spoke about often. Two months later, it was Hundley’s turn to reach out. 

“I asked him if he wanted to play together again,” Hundley said. “He said, ‘You better not be messing with me.’”

The Giants signed just two free agents who are guaranteed of being on the opening day roster. In an odd twist, the new closer and new backup catcher have known each other for over a decade. Hundley was a second-round pick in 2005 out of the University of Arizona. A year later, his college teammate Melancon was a ninth-round pick. The two have stayed close throughout the pro ball journey. They were groomsmen in each other’s weddings and their wives and children hang out together. 

“We always talked about playing together,” Hundley said, adding that the odds were long in a 30-team sport.

The friends have crossed off a good chunk of them. Melancon has played for the Yankees, Astros, Red Sox, Pirates and Nationals. Hundley has played for the Padres, Orioles and Rockies. Finally, the two have hooked on to the same team, and the Giants are excited to have them both. Hundley will be the veteran catcher the team has missed in recent years, and the Giants are hopeful that he’s a pinch-hit threat, too. Melancon, of course, was brought in to fix the glaring problem in the ninth. Hundley is confident he’ll do it.

“I’ve caught him since 2005,” he said smiling, “And he’s always been nasty.”

NEW FACE: It’s hard to take much away from drills, but Orlando Calixte certainly impressed. As the Giants worked out on the field for the first time in three days, I asked GM Bobby Evans what Calixte showed the team’s scouts. “Just his athleticism, his tools, they stand out,” Evans said. They certainly do. Calixte is smooth out there, and he showed quickness at short that might differentiate him from the pack of infield options. 

Calixte has also played second, third and the outfield in the minors, and while the Giants intend on keeping five outfielders, that versatility could come into play. The Giants plucked Calixte from Kansas City’s system and put him on the 40-man roster when it became apparent that other offers were out there. They thought he could provide more versatility than Ehire Adrianza, and it helps that he has an option remaining. Calixte has to beat out a bunch of guys to win a roster spot, but given his glove and his status on the 40-man, it would be a surprise if we don’t see him at some point this season. 

ICYMI: Bruce Bochy said he’ll call Johnny Cueto to talk about his preparation for the World Baseball Classic. 

POSITION BATTLE: Matt Cain, the clear frontrunner for the No. 5 spot, faced hitters on the main field. Bochy liked what he saw. “He’s gotten more time away from that surgery and he’s throwing the ball well,” Bochy said. “Buster said the same thing. It’s coming out good.”

NOTEWORTHY: The Giants are serious about making Trevor Brown a more versatile option. He fielded grounders at short today and also spent plenty of time at second. 

QUOTABLE: “Just a good day. We (the coaches) were talking about how it’s changed a little bit. We’re not even in March yet and guys are letting it go.” — Bochy on the first day of live BP sessions. The pitchers were certainly well ahead of the hitters today. 

Will Cueto be ready for the WBC? 'That’s the question we have to answer'

Will Cueto be ready for the WBC? 'That’s the question we have to answer'

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Jeff Samardzija whirled and fired a strike to Eduardo Nuñez shortly after 11:30 a.m. on Monday. With that, the Giants took another step back toward actual baseball.

Monday was the first day of live batting practice sessions, but the most important one took place thousands of miles east of Scottsdale Stadium. Johnny Cueto faced teenage prospects at the club’s facility in Santo Domingo, and Bruce Bochy said he would call Cueto to check in on his progress. 

The Giants are not concerned that Cueto — who is tending to his ill father — is missing so much of spring training. They know him well enough by now to know that Cueto paces himself and takes care of his body. They are, however, starting to get a little concerned about Cueto missing so much camp and then going straight to the World Baseball Classic. 

“The spring started early so he’s got plenty of time to get ready for (opening day),” manager Bruce Bochy said. “The question will be will he be ready for the WBC. That’s the question we have to answer.”

Bochy said he would like to see Cueto in the 50-60 pitch range before he goes off to compete for the Dominican Republic. The Dominican team opens play March 9 at Marlins Park. 

“We’re going to talk about a lot of things,” Bochy said. “We’ll see where he’s at, see where he’s at mentally, and see how his father is doing.”

Bochy noted that Nolan Ryan used to show up to camp on March 1 and throw 80 mph, working his way up from there. The Giants view Cueto the same way, but at some point there will be a breaking point where the WBC participation becomes a real concern. At the very least, Bochy said, Cueto might be asked to join the DR team later in the tournament.