Monday, April 7, 2014

Melky Cabrera: The Yankee that got away

Imagine a 24-year-old, switching hitting CF with a laser pointer arm, power to all fields, a Kirby Puckett body with Jeterian speed. Well, that's what the Yankees had in the winter of 2009, along with a World Series ring. Maybe we were intoxicated by success: After all, we had beaten Philadelphia, exorcized the Pedro Martinez demon, and now we were poised to string several championships together.

And then Brian Cashman made the deal that - for better or worse - sealed us into a rather unpleasant alternative universe: We traded that 24 year-old, Melky Cabrera, with Mike Dunn and Arodys Vizciano to the Atlanta Braves for Boone Logan and the return of - ugh - Javier Vazquez. (Note re: "ugh" reference: Keep in mind that the last time we'd seen Vazquez, he served a grand slam gopher ball to Johnny Damon, effectively ending the Curse of the Bambino, the Yankee dominance over Boston, and perhaps the Yankees as we knew them.)

The Gammonites wrote that we had finally traded the over-rated Yankee enigma, the phantom future prospect, known as Melky Cabrera.

Listen: It's self-torture to look at bad trades in retrospect. What's done is done. It's cliche to point out now what we didn't know then. It's also wayyy to easy to rip Cashman for a deal that - quite honestly - didn't look so bad at the time.

Seriously. You could argue that this was a solid trade. You could even say the alternative universe where the Yankees didn't make that trade is far too complex to be channeled. In that universe, Miley Cyrus weighs 300 pounds and works at Arby's. That's how far off it is.

There was a time when Melky was viewed as a bad influence on Robbie Cano - (though it wouldn't be the first time two Latinos were unfairly categorized by a front office). If Melky stayed, would Robbie have evolved into a great player? Would Robbie still be a Yankee? What about Melky's 2012 PED suspension? Would Robbie have juiced - or been caught juicing. There are a million variables here. No, make it a billion.

But this weekend, we watched Melky - still only 29 - hit three home runs against us, and every goddamm one of them brought the same response:

I thought they said this guy wasn't gonna be any good?

My recollection: The Gammonites were constantly assuring us that the Yankee front office believed that Melky Cabrera - no matter what he did in the minors, and he crushed balls down there - was never the Yankee "IT GIRL." They were always looking to ditch him. It didn't matter that he clobbered the Angels in the 2009 post-season. It didn't matter that he had the best RF arm since Pauly O'Neill. The Yankee baseball people saw something, and they were bound to trade him. He never was a part of the Yankee plans.

Well, an ocean of milk has flowed under the bridge since the Melk Man was traded for what turned out to be a serviceable relief pitcher and a nice guy in a career-ending free fall. But Melky hasn't yet turned 30. Who knows what he'll do this year? It occurs to me that he might not have peaked. Aw, let's not torture ourselves. But next time you hit the drive thru at Arby's, maybe that 300-pounder with the big tongue should be playing Madison Square Garden, eh?

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