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No, Melky Cabrera’s batting title will not be the result of a “loophole”

Sep 21, 2012, 10:05 AM EDT

Melky Cabrera AP

There are a lot of people who (a) don’t want to see Melky Cabrera win the batting title; but (b) find it unseemly for baseball to change its rules on the fly in order to thwart Cabrera.  That’s totally understandable.

The problem comes when those folks try to get around all of that like Gwen Knapp of Sports on Earth does today, arguing that Major League Baseball should close what she calls a “loophole” that allows Cabrera to win the title despite not having 502 plate appearances:

However, an MLB loophole known as Rule 10.22(a) adjusts the stats of any player who falls short, adding the missing plate appearances but no hits to his final totals. If the player’s batting average still leads a league, then he gets the crown.

Cabrera’s single missing plate appearance invites Selig to close the loophole. In fact, it begs him to make the change.

The thing about this, however, is that Rule 10.22(a) is not a “loophole.”  It’s a RULE. It does not give discretion. It says that a player who falls short of the batting title “SHALL” be given additional hitless plate appearances to his stats in order to qualify him for the batting title. It could not be more clear in this regard.

Knapp argues that the rule is newer, and that for this reason ignoring it is somehow OK.  But we don’t treat rules that way. Once they are part of baseball’s rule book they are rules until they are repealed.  Ignoring this one — calling it a “loophole” — would be effectively no different than ignoring the rule which defines a base hit and saying that 25 of Cabrera’s didn’t count because they went to right field or something.

I have no doubt that baseball will change the rules this offseason to disqualify suspended players from batting titles in some way.  But make no mistake: doing it now, on the fly, would not be “closing a loophole.” It would be tossing aside one of the established rules of baseball because we don’t like how it works in a specific case.  Baseball should simply not be in that business. If it were, it would render the record book even more meaningless and subjective than those who decry the scourge of steroids claim it is quickly becoming.

  1. johnnyb1976 - Sep 21, 2012 at 10:08 AM

    Barry Bonds is so proud of his young Melky for winning the batting title.

    • atworkident - Sep 21, 2012 at 10:18 AM

      Not sure I get the correlation… Barry Bonds never knowingly took steroids, right?

  2. danaking - Sep 21, 2012 at 10:11 AM

    Left out of your argument is the fact that this is a good rule. If a player comes up 10 PAs short due to injury or getting called up after the season started, it only makes sense to add the hitless ABs to his total. The worst he could have done is go 0-for-10 in that scenario, in which case he still would have led the league.

    It’s a shame to see a hitter lead the league in a year where he was suspended for, essentially, cheating. That’s the rule to change. (Or, in this case, add.) Don;t get rid of a good rule because circumstances conspired to create a less than desirable result. Address those circumstances instead.

    • Lukehart80 - Sep 21, 2012 at 10:35 AM

      How do you take away the batting title? It’s not an award that’s given out, it’s a nickname attached to the answer to a math problem.

      A higher percentage of Melky Cabrera’s at bats resulted in hits than those of any other player in the National League. That’s math, on roughly the 4th grade level, it’s not something that can be taken away.

      Individual fans can decide whether or not they care about the accomplishment, but you can’t take away math (despite the best efforts of many to do just that).

      • ksbuff - Sep 21, 2012 at 11:06 AM

        Hypothetical then:

        “A” is the nickname given to a test score >90%.

        A student scores an “A” on a test because he answered 95% of the questions correctly. Later on he is accused of cheating and confesses to the crime. Does he get to keep his “A?”

        Many here are arguing that because we don’t know the effects of PEDs that it is unfair to take away hits that really happened. That’s fine. Leave the hits, leave the outcomes, but void the ABs on Melky’s stat sheet. Move down to the player with the best BA that didn’t fail a drug test this year, and give him the title.

        The student may have known every single one of the questions he answered correctly or he might not have known any of them. That doesn’t change the fact that he cheated. Show me a teacher that allows that student to keep his “A.”

      • danandcasey - Sep 21, 2012 at 11:10 AM

        Rule 10.22 is about establishing individual championships of professional leagues for batting, slugging, and on base percentages (10.22(a)); earned run average (10.22(b)); and fielding by position (10.22(c)). The language of the rule talks of “championships” that are “awarded.” It would be easy to add Rule 10.22(d) to read: Notwithstanding the foregoing requirements of sections (a), (b), and (c), no individual shall be awarded a championship in a given year if that individual was suspended for violating the league’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program in that year unless such a suspension was later overturned.

        I am not advocating such a rule addition, but such an addition would allow a player that otherwise might have earned the recognition of the “championship” (and maybe a salary bonus) but for the suspended player’s “enhanced performance.” So – in the NL batting title case, Andrew McCutchen (or, perhaps, Buster Posey) gets the right to be called “champion” – a title he arguably may have earned outright if not for Melky’s use of PEDs. While not the same as a voted-on “award,” it would still be nice for his mother.

      • natstowngreg - Sep 21, 2012 at 11:19 AM

        Don’t give Melky a Silver Slugger award. Since those awards are voted (and based on more than just BA), it would be easy enough. Beyond that, recognize the stat, and the circumstances surrounding it. Like Barry Bonds’ and Mark McGwire’s home run championships.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Sep 21, 2012 at 11:29 AM

        ksbuff – if you are going to take away Melky’s ABs, what happens to them? Is there a black line in Giants box scores for 2012? What about the pitching stats? What about the RBI when a teammate drove Melky in?

        Stas are just a record of things that happened. The batting title is fairly meaningless. The only reason people are getting worked up about his is because they are assigning some emotional importance to it. If Andrew McCutchen gets 20 more hits this season and overtakes Melky, are we still outraged that Melky has the second highest BA in the NL? Why do those thousands of a percentage point matter so much?

      • ksbuff - Sep 21, 2012 at 3:20 PM

        I didn’t suggest taking them away. I said void them from his stat sheet. They happened but he shouldn’t get credit for suspect ABs.

        I suppose it’s all a bit academic at this point since he has asked to be removed from consideration, but confessed/confirmed/convicted cheaters shouldn’t be rewarded with awards that are voted on, stats based, or otherwise.

  3. stex52 - Sep 21, 2012 at 10:11 AM

    Loophole is a popular term in American life these days. The correct translation is “law (or rule) that I don’t happen to like.”

    • paperlions - Sep 21, 2012 at 10:30 AM

      Yes, people mis-apply the term, but loopholes do exist as they are technically legal ways to circumvent the spirit or intent of a law (generally one that was poorly written or that had unforeseen consequences resulting in the loophole).

      • stex52 - Sep 21, 2012 at 10:55 AM

        And are often written in on purpose. But that doesn’t seem to be what is going on here. That may be a perception issue, though, depending on how strongly you feel about Melky.

      • paperlions - Sep 21, 2012 at 11:22 AM

        I have no feelings one way or another about Melky or the batting average title.

        To me, there is no loophole here. There are rules and punishments for being caught using PEDs, and making players ineligible for awards/recognition is not one of those punishments. You don’t get to make up additional punishments after the fact.

  4. proudlycanadian - Sep 21, 2012 at 10:14 AM

    If baseball can’t retroactively give a pitcher a perfect game even though an ump made a wrong call, then they would be unable to take away a batting title. Most people will give Melky’s BA an asterix and move on.

    • Francisco (FC) - Sep 21, 2012 at 10:34 AM

      Asterix? One of these?: http://www.asterix.com/encyclopedie/personnages/perso/g09b.gif

      • proudlycanadian - Sep 21, 2012 at 10:40 AM

        Good one!

  5. barrancefong - Sep 21, 2012 at 10:25 AM

    Gwen’s work is usually ok. I think in this case, loophole was a poor choice of words. The gist of her message is the same as yours; that this “clause” in the rule book should be fixed to not give benefits to players who were caught cheating or suspended.

    A true loophole would be like if you were caught cheating by a positive drug test, but then they threw out the results because FedEx didn’t pick up the sample right away. That’s a loophole.

  6. sdelmonte - Sep 21, 2012 at 10:28 AM

    Since we are directed to Sports on Earth, has anyone else been visiting that site? Despite the presence of JoePo and Mike Tanier, I haven’t found it very compelling yet. It’s sort of like a low rent Grantland (which has shown slow but steady improvement).

  7. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 21, 2012 at 10:28 AM

    Knapp argues that the rule is newer,

    Not to get all damn-kids-get-off-my-lawn here, but this “newer” rule is referred to as the Tony Gwynn rule which was put in place in 1996(!) so he could win the batting title. Bryce Harper wasn’t even 4 years old when this was in place, so why refer to it as “newer”?

    • dlf9 - Sep 21, 2012 at 10:42 AM

      Actually, you are off by several generations. The rule was first included in a somewhat different form when Ernie Lombardi was battling for batting titles in the 1930s. It was recognized that as a catcher, he should have a different playing time requirement than other position players. The rule was then significantly modified in 1954. In ’54, Ted Williams had the highest BA (.345) of anyone with significant playing time (he had 526 PAs) but the batting title went to Bobby Avila (.341) because Williams, due to his high number of BBs, had fewer than 3.1 ABs per game. The rule was then changed to reflect PAs rather than ABs and has been in this form ever since.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 21, 2012 at 10:52 AM

        Holy crap, so newer becomes even more of a joke. Thanks!

  8. makeham98 - Sep 21, 2012 at 10:28 AM

    Bonds’ defense was always that he never knowingly took banned substances. He was acquitted of perjuring himself essentially for that stand.

    And beyond a few on the fringe, no one will care about silly asterisks in the long run. Remove McGwire from all record books if you want to go down that road.

  9. thefalcon123 - Sep 21, 2012 at 10:28 AM

    Am I the only person in America who thinks the 50-100-permanent suspension policy currently in place is actually a pretty good punishment and that we should just leave it at that?

    • natslady - Sep 21, 2012 at 10:49 AM

      Apparently. OK, so it’s a rule, and that’s good to know. And granted, you can’t change it now, but you can change it for the future.

      But there is real money at stake. I don’t know McCutchen’s contract, but a lot of players have contracts with so-called “incentives,” All-Star appearances, MVP votes, Cy Young votes, etc. So McCutchen (hypothetically) could lose not only the batting “title” but serious money. It’s bad enough that some of these votes are subjective and influenced by homers and “narratives.”

      But the batting title is statistical. Cabrera will miss 45 recular season games. That’s not a late call-up or a two weeks on the DL. That’s not 10 PAs, it’s more like 120 PAs. That’s a substantial portion of the season. If he’d batted those 120 PA’s who is to say he would beat out McCutchen????

      • thefalcon123 - Sep 21, 2012 at 11:29 AM

        Okay, paragraph 2 is really, really silly. First off, McCutchen has no performance clause in his contract. Secondly, I can’t imagine McCutchen will lose MVP votes because someone else did steroids.

        Paragraph 2 is a bit sillier. You have to average 3.1 PAs per 162 games. So, by your logic, if a player comes in as a pinch hitter every game, he has more right to the batting title than a player who played 130 games and game played the entire game?

        George Brett missed 45 games in 1980, and as far as I can tell, his .390 BA is bandied about as a great feat, not diminished because he only played 117 games. Tony Gwynn missed 46 games in 1996, Chipper Jones missed 34 in 2008. I don’t recall anyone ranting about the unfairness of their batting titles.

  10. illcomm - Sep 21, 2012 at 10:40 AM

    Craig. you r just an idiot. come out n say melky doesn’t deserve the title. plain n simple. as the comissioner, deluge should just enforce a new rule banning players from any title/awards if they do indead test positive. we all know though Craig, you dont/won’t take a stand on anything unless your crapping on Phils fans or speeding your hatred trolling in our direction. brain positive test n award recieving last year was just the icing on the cake on the of why these awards mean nothing anymore. let’s not be foolish n think some of these numbers that are peaking or just unheard of are actually real n not a mirage of just continued cheating. my guess is deep down inside your’re very grateful of the PED use, otherwise baseball would have fallen off the map in popularity.

    • dlf9 - Sep 21, 2012 at 10:50 AM

      I am very glad for Craig’s success and the rapid expansion of his readership. However, there are times like this when I miss the old days of Shysterball when there were so many fewer commentors, but the ratio of quality responses to idiotic juveniles was so much better. I guess it is just the price we plebes need to pay for Craig’s welcome journey.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 21, 2012 at 10:55 AM

      new rule banning players from any title/awards if they do indead test positive

      You do realize that this wouldn’t have any affect on Cabrera, considering there is no award or title for having the highest BA. Whether the Commish makes a rule or not, statistically he still has the highest.

      But excellent rant…

      • thefalcon123 - Sep 21, 2012 at 11:36 AM

        Thank you.

        This is the same problem I have with the Bonds/asterisk crowd. The fact is, Major League Baseball counted those 762 (and 73) home run as part of the score of the game. Why do they suddenly not count when it comes to Bonds’ personal stat page?!?

    • Utley's Hair - Sep 21, 2012 at 10:59 AM

      Do you even read what Craig has said about PEDs?

      For that matter, do you even read what you wrote prior to clicking on the post comment button?

      I also guess you didn’t realize that you didn’t really need to click on the perfectly clear title—which was quite nicely accompanied by a byline noting that Craig was the author—read the post (I would hope), and then sign in and reply.

    • indaburg - Sep 21, 2012 at 11:30 AM

      I seriously have no idea what this post means. Reading this was like listening to Sarah Palin speak. I know it’s English, but I just don’t get it.

    • thefalcon123 - Sep 21, 2012 at 11:34 AM

      1. Saying plain and simple doesn’t make something plain and simple. If just means you refuse to acknowledge the complexity of an issue.

      2. Braun wasn’t suspended for PEDs. MLB’s own panel cleared him. You may not agree with the whys and hows, but by *MLBs own standards*, Braun has been completely cleared.

      3. Players suddenly have a great season out of nowhere *is not new*. Roger Maris never hit 40 home runs then suddenly smacked 61. Davey Johnson went from 5 home runs in 400 PAs to hitting 43. Kirby Puckett hit a whopping 4 home runs in his first 1,327 plate appearances before smashing 31 in 1986. Did they all do steroids?

  11. jjbelt - Sep 21, 2012 at 10:55 AM

    @lukehart80- reading your response drained all the life force from my body. You probably felt so smart simplifying this to 4th grade math. This is an eligibility issue, not a simple percentage issue. When I need to know what percentage 4 out of 10 is I’ll get back to you.

  12. willclarkgameface - Sep 21, 2012 at 11:28 AM

    The rules of baseball make me giggle, especially when a guy busted on PEDs gets to win the batting title because of them.

    I love you Bud Selig!

    • rooney24 - Sep 21, 2012 at 12:57 PM

      What does Bud have to do with it? He didn’t even make the rule in question. I agree that he is not a great commissioner, but come on, don’t be trying to hang stuff on someone when it isn’t their fault.

  13. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Sep 21, 2012 at 11:34 AM

    Why stop at scrubbing Melky’s hits from the record book? Let’s erase his birth certificate and any record of his existence on earth. That will show people. Except he wouldn’t really be an example if he never existed. Hmmm, maybe it would just be simpler if we didn’t eff with the record books, mmkay?

    • thefalcon123 - Sep 21, 2012 at 11:43 AM

      Well, if we scrub them from the record book, we obviously have to scrub them from the boxscores to. I mean, the Giants benefited from those hits and they counted in the final score of the game.

      So, here’s what I propose. MLB must go back through every single game and find each Melky Cabrera at bat. They must then run a series simulations to see what a replacement level player who have likely in that situation. That new play is then inserted into the old Melky Cabrera play. The following at bats will stay as is, but with/without the hypothetical runner on base. As an added bonus, this will add new drama to the pennant races as team’s records may be entirely switched around. Guess, what Philly fans, you may have no legitimately lost that April game that the Giants won in extra innings with a walk-off Cabrera single!

      This is clearly the right thing to do. It will help make baseball the magically perfect, harmonious world that we all know it’s always been.

  14. raysfan1 - Sep 21, 2012 at 11:41 AM

    Thanks, I had thought adding the hypothetical PAs was a courtesy and not actually codified in the rules. Since it is, okay, case closed for Melky.

    However, I do think that they should add a rule going forward that anyone suspended for a significant period, say 10 games or more, for any reason should be ineligible for any awards, any statistical titles, any contract bonuses, and the next All Star game.

    • thefalcon123 - Sep 21, 2012 at 11:48 AM

      Question:

      Did Melky Cabrera get a hit in 34.6% of his at bats?

      Did any other player in the National league get a hit in a higher percentage of at bats? No? Then Cabrera lead the league. Also, who cares about batting titles. Seriously, who can guess who won the batting titles in the following years (no cheating!)

      2006 NL:
      2005 NL:
      1993 AL:
      1991 AL:
      1991 NL:
      1990 NL:

      (1990 hint: Eddie Murray played for the Dodgers and lead the *Major League’s* in batting. But he did not win the NL Batting title…)

      • raysfan1 - Sep 21, 2012 at 10:43 PM

        Hint: I know baseball stats just as well as you do. I already said I felt Cabrera’s “title” should stand because that is how the rules are written. My view that the rule should change for future year is not because I care about a statistical leader per se. Rather, it is because many players have performance bonuses tagged to such “titles.”

        Of course, Cabrera’s personal issue is a moot point now based on the later events today.

  15. cjh88 - Sep 21, 2012 at 12:09 PM

    If SF gets a rain out late in the year there is decent chance they will not make up the game since it will be irrelevant to the standings. If SF only plays 161 games, 501 PAs will be more than 3.1 per team game and Melky will qualify with the application of Rule 10.22 (at least as I understand the rules). Then what will people say to keep Melky from winning this mystical batting “title”

    • cjh88 - Sep 21, 2012 at 12:10 PM

      typo, “without the application of Rule 10.22″ is what it should say

  16. MattJanik - Sep 21, 2012 at 12:22 PM

    Here’s perhaps a different way to look at it:

    The biggest gripe seems to be that we “know” Cabrera was cheating when he put up his 2012 stats (though, who’s to say he was using performance-enhancing drugs for ALL of his plate appearances?).

    FACT: Melky Cabrera played in 113 games, and made 501 plate appearances.

    FACT: Due to the quirks of the game, it’s not unreasonable for a player to generate 500 plate appearances of so in 110 or so games.

    So, flip the entire situation on its head. Hypothetically, say a player was nabbed for PEDs in the off-season and is suspended for the first 50 games of the season. Thus, his team has 112 games remaining when he is eligible again. Suppose he plays in every game the rest of the way and records 159 hits in 501 plate appearances, same as Cabrera. Or, even suppose he records the required 502 plate appearances or more and leads the league in hitting. There’s no way we’d “know” he was clean after the suspension. Would the outrage be the same? Less? More?

  17. rooney24 - Sep 21, 2012 at 1:02 PM

    I believe you can’t change rules mid-season. In this particular case, could the process and appeals process have been handled more quickly? Then, maybe he is 50 AB short of qualifying and it drops his average lower than someone else’s. Maybe they need a quicker testing and appeals process.

  18. 4cornersfan - Sep 21, 2012 at 1:25 PM

    All of this talk about PEDs and suspensions and awards makes me wonder why Pete Rose is not in the Hall of Fame. Is placing a few bets on your team to win really more dishonorable than juicing? Rose may have lied about the gambling but he never cheated the fans, the other teams or the record book.

    • thefalcon123 - Sep 21, 2012 at 2:49 PM

      Every. Fucking. Time.

  19. randygnyc - Sep 21, 2012 at 2:50 PM

    Breaking- melky asked to be removed from consideration for batting title. Union agrees.

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