The decline and fall of Melky Cabrera

Game 124: Start of something big?
New Yankee Stadium coming along

When April ended, a baseball lifetime ago, the three of us here at River Ave. Blues were eating our words a bit when it came to one Melky Cabrera. Long doubters of the long-term viability of the Yanks’ center fielder, we had just witnessed Melky put up a .299/.370/.494 line with five home runs and 12 RBI. Melky, it seemed, had finally emerged as a bona fide Major Leage hitter.

And then everything fell apart. On May 4, Melky hit his sixth home run of the season, and the two RBIs gave him 17 on the season. Since then, however, Melky’s season has been an utter abomination.

From May 6 onward, Melky managed 322 plate appearances. He hit .225/.273/.279 with 11 extra-base hits and 19 RBIs. He struck out 42 times, and many Yankee-watchers figured that his August benching and subsequent demotion came approximately a month too late. I, surprisingly, disagree, and as the teams have passed since Melky’s optioning to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, I’m still trying to comes to terms with the Yanks’ decision.

By sending Melky Cabrera down to AAA, the Yanks are basically telling everyone — Melky, the 29 other clubs, the rest of the team — that they are giving up on him. Sure, Joe Girardi can tell us that Melky needs to “go work on some things,” and Cashman can proclaim Melky to be “a better player than this.” But that’s just lip service the Yanks are paying to the press and whatever remains of Melky’s self-esteem.

The truth remains that Melky Cabrera is a three-year Major League veteran and that in each of his three seasons, his offensive production has gotten progressively worse. Considering that he was never really an elite hitting prospects in the first place, it’s hard right now to envision him as a player with much long-term potential at the Major League level.

With this demotion, the Yanks have broadcast this belief and the reality of it all to any potential trading partner, and they’ve done so in a way that is designed to destroy Melky’s confidence. Is it any wonder, then, that as of Saturday night, Cabrera still hadn’t reported to AAA?

For the Yankees to turn Melky Cabrera into something worthwhile, they will have to package him in a trade this off-season. Once upon a time — two years ago — the Yanks could have built a trade around Melky Cabrera and, perhaps, another pitching prospect. But now, any team trading with the Yanks will view Melky as a throw-in and one that got demoted in the heat of a pennant race at that.

Make no mistake about it; Melky Cabrera did not deserve any more playing time as a starter in the Yankee outfielder. But any value he had to the team is long gone. What the Yanks plan to do to reclaim that value and rebuild Melky Cabrera is anyone’s guess.

Game 124: Start of something big?
New Yankee Stadium coming along
  • Chofo

    “his August benching and subsequent demotion came approximately a month too late”

    That´s the difference between us fans and the front office. One month ago they were trying to trade Melky and get some value from him, so they were not going to bench him or even demote him. We only saw the horrible line he was putting so we agreed in the need to replace him, but they were after getting some value out of him in a trade. As you said it, he has none right now.

  • http://www.freewebs.com/ps3tf2/chat.htm Double-J

    The Yankees have bigger problems than Melky Cabrera’s play (or lack thereof). Seriously. I agree they had to do something with Melky, even though I’m a Melky fan, but their #9 hitter is pretty small on the list of complaints I have regarding the performance of the 2008 Yankees…

    • http://www.freewebs.com/ps3tf2/chat.htm Double-J

      *Pretty far down on the long list of complaints…

      Fixed.

  • xkevinx

    Your entire argument is based on the premise that major league scouts have no ability to evaluate players. I don’t think his benching, demotion or playing would drastically change the way he is evaluated by opposing scouts. If it did, why have scouts to begin with?

    I suspect Melky has little trade value to a national league club, and none to anyone in the american league. I can’t imagine the way the front office handled the last month had any effect one way or another.

    • steve (different one)

      exactly.

      this argument presumes that the people on this blog are smarter than the 29 other teams, which is silly.

      even if they didn’t send him down, other teams likely have already figured out that he just isn’t very good.

      one of the most overlooked reasons that a deal for Santana didn’t surface was simply that the Twins didn’t like Melky. at all.

      that was a big part of it.

    • Steve

      Bingo.

      “broadcast this belief and the reality of it all to any potential trading partner”

      presumes that other teams don’t know who Melky is, and I have no doubt that they do. Anyone with an internet connection can look up his stats, and keeping him up here wasn’t making them any better.

      I also can’t imagine a Yankee team that would keep a non-productive player on its roster just in the hope of trading him down the line. The 25 man is for guys that can help you win ballgames, nothing else. The minor leagues are where you stick guys who can’t help your big league club.

      Sorry Ben, I usually like your articles but this is one of the most poorly thought out, worst arguments I’ve seen you post. Keep this up and YOU’LL be sent to Scranton!!

    • domus

      Don’t forget that this crack analysis is coming from folks who said that Mussina would be relegated to the bullpen or DFAd by this time in the season and that trading Hughes and Kennedy for a top flight lefthander to pitch in a left hand friendly ballpark would be catastrophic to the long term plans of the organization. They’re a few step ahead of the game!

      • pat

        u can leave …..

        • r.w.g.

          I don’t agree with everything that Ben, Mike, and Joseph post on the site. I don’t agree with everything domus said.

          But when you put your comments on an internet blog for the express purpose of generating discussion, people have a right to express their disagreements.

          If you just want to tell people to take a walk when they disagree, you should probably leave.

  • raymagnetic

    “By sending Melky Cabrera down to AAA, the Yanks are basically telling everyone — Melky, the 29 other clubs, the rest of the team — that they are giving up on him. Sure, Joe Girardi can tell us that Melky needs to “go work on some things,” and Cashman can proclaim Melky to be “a better player than this.” But that’s just lip service the Yanks are paying to the press and whatever remains of Melky’s self-esteem. ”

    Sorry but this is a really stupid assessment to make based on a player being sent back down to the minors.

    Roy Halladay was sent back down to A ball after playing in the bigs for 2 years, remember? Guess that meant that they had given up on him? Rickie Weeks was sent back down to AAA last year, guess that meant that the Brewers had given up on him.

    Players get sent down all the time after spending years in the majors. When they’re still as young as Melky is it doesn’t mean that the organization has given up on him at all.

    “With this demotion, the Yanks have broadcast this belief and the reality of it all to any potential trading partner, and they’ve done so in a way that is designed to destroy Melky’s confidence. Is it any wonder, then, that as of Saturday night, Cabrera still hadn’t reported to AAA?”

    They purposely wanted to destroy his confidence? Yeah, that makes all the sense in the world. Here’s some advice though, stick to blogging and leave alone the amateur psychology.

    • raymagnetic

      Melky Cabrera reported today, not Tuesday as you guys speculated he would. H/T Pete Abraham.

      Could it be he took two days off to clear his head a bit and not as an F You to the organization?

      You guys really don’t like Melky and I get it, but your obsession about everything Melky, the Yankees 9th place hitter I might add, borders on ludricrous.

      • http://gftf2.proboards80.com/index.cgi Double-J

        ^ This.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph P.

        As ludicrous as those who think/thought he’s the next Bernie?

        • raymagnetic

          Just because they may have been ludicrous, doesn’t mean that the constant Melky obsessing by you guys isn’t ludicrous.

        • http://gftf2.proboards80.com/index.cgi Double-J

          Really. Honest to God, I’ve never seen so much nagging placed on one player than you guys have with Cabrera. I mean, he’s the #9 hitter. There is plenty more to complain about or psychoanalyze than the mediocrity of our #9 hitter, especially someone who is just a kid and is on a team of (alleged) stars.

  • Todd

    Ben, I think that your basic premise that “any value he had to the team is long gone. What the Yanks plan to do to reclaim that value and rebuild Melky Cabrera is anyone’s guess” is just a bit overstated.

    What is wrong with having a fourth OFer type in ths system. He was pressed into full time status because there was no one else. A lot of people always kind of looked at him as more of a fourth OFer. Until this year, I even thought his defense was a bit overrated. But every fourth OFer has some value…

  • Manimal

    This was way over due.

  • Anthony M

    Robinson Cano has also had progressively worse numbers each season. I don’t know what that means–I’m just saying.

    • raymagnetic

      I don’t think that the Yankees have a really speedy slap hitting 2B in the minors to take his place so he gets a reprieve.

    • THE Dread Pirate Roberts

      it means that this demotion was as likely about robinson cano as it was about melky … if rumors of their partying are to be believed …

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike A.

      One difference is that this year is Cano’s first as a below average player.

  • Manimal

    Melky is in the line up for scranton. Per Pete Abe.

  • Doug

    Problem is the Yankees have no room to keep him on the roster with Matsui coming back.

    I was never a huge Melky fan and love to see Brett gettting a chance, because outside of Melkys Arm, Brett Gardner will be a bette rplayer

  • Ivan

    Melky walked in his A-Bat.

  • AndrewYF

    If the Yankees truly had given up on Cabrera as a starting outfielder, they’d have simply benched him and used him as a defensive replacement. The fact that they did send him down to AAA, and thereby using up his final option year, says to me that they want Melky to rediscover his hitting stroke.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike A.

      That’s true, didn’t realize this burned up his final option. Guess he’s going to break camp with the big league club next year, hell or high water.

      • AndrewYF

        Is that how it works? What if the Yankees don’t put him on the 25-man roster again this year, they have to put him on next year?

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike A.

          Yeah, either they put him on the 25-man roster next year or he has to pass through waivers before going to the minors. Whatever they do with him the rest of the this year doesn’t affect that at all.

          • bklynJT

            They can always not put him on the big league roster at the break of camp next year? He’s already in the minors, there shouldn’t be a need for him to pass through waivers…

            • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike A.

              No, because he’s out of options, he either has to break camp on the 25-man roster, or go through waivers. There’s no way to sneak around it.

  • jeff

    Ben, I know you at least used to be interested in sabermetrics. Take a look at Melky’s LD% and BABIP. He’s been extremely unlucky. One of the unluckiest hitters in baseball. His LD% is about where it has been for his career, but his BABIP is 30 points lower.

    I did this math a couple of weeks ago, but I doubt much has changed since the. Adjust Melky’s numbers to where his BABIP should be based on his LD% and you get .276/.330/.380. Not super, but people wouldn’t be screaming for his head if he was doing that.

    Also, the idea that the team is giving up on him is crazy, in my opinion. It’s far more likely that they just want him to go down and hit well for a couple of weeks to regain some confidence.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

      Those BABIP-adjusted numbers are in line with his career numbers, and as many have pointed out, for a number nine hitter, that would be just fine. You’re right; I should have looked there as well. Cano is suffering from the same kind of BABIP-induced bad luck as well.

      I think the Yanks are also concerned about Melky’s K rates. He’s striking out once ever 7.9 PAs this season as opposed to last year’s one per 9 PAs. Since May, those numbers are worse.

      Maybe we’re being unfair to Melky. Maybe the Yanks have a plan, and maybe we shouldn’t be psychoanalyzing people we don’t know. I’m willing to grant those points. I’m still just not sure —after watching him for three years — what the future holds for Melky.

      • jeff

        I like you, Ben. You’re a reasonable guy.

        “I’m still just not sure —after watching him for three years — what the future holds for Melky.”

        I think even those of us who believe in Melky feel the same way. I think he’s still going to end up being an above average center fielder, and maybe even very good, but I have more doubts now than ever.

  • Ivan

    Wow Hughes is throwing alot of strikes 26-5 K/BB ratio.

    • bklynJT

      Yeah but they keep fouling off his pitches, and thus a high pitch count.

      On top of that, he seems hittable today, getting shelled for 8 hits (1 should of been an error according to Jennings) and 5 earned runs… Maybe he needs some more time in the minors to work on stuff.

  • Ivan

    Wow Melky did something that he probably never did when he was up here, back to back walks.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike A.

      Heh, he threw a runner out at the plate too.

  • Bart

    The basic line over the winter was to keep him and IPK — Santana was too high a cost and too high a price — likley Cashman figured that he would grow in value — or at least hold his own and be tradeable this winter —

    Now neither IPK or Melky will bring anyhting of value — Melky at least ought to go play winter ball – maybe he can learn to hit —

    I would try to get him to face left handed picthing from the left side so as to build that stroke — he was dismal from the right side – so simply if possible

    • steve (different one)

      incredible.

      still pretending melky + IPK was ever possible.

      just amazing.

      • Steve

        Cheer up, sleepy jean.
        Oh, what can it mean.
        To a daydream believer
        And a homecoming queen.

  • Manimal

    Does anyone else fail to see how every seat will be facing home plate?

    • Manimal

      Sorry wrong place. Ben I know your pissed off from the other comments but this was totally by accident.

  • Gary

    Our beloved Yankees, in reality? Aren’t a very good squad. We got Johnny Damon as a free agent in 2005, and while Johnny can hit, and run, his days as a top flight outfielder are probably gone. Matsui is perhaps at the crossroads…Giambi has his moments. What can you say about the guy leading the team in RBI’s, namely Bobby Abreu? Can you say unequivocally that if you were Brian Cashman you’d automatically bring Bobby back? I mean, he’s good, but is he going to be worthy of the money he will undoubtedly demand? The question has to be raised… Jeter is our beloved guy, even if his Ford commercial about going to his website comes on incessantly, but Jete’s aging; Posada’s aging; Mussina; Pettitte, aging. I’ll always have huge doubts about A-Rod’s ability to perform in October, don’t you? Where this team is headed into the future is anybody’s guess. Yesterday I wanted to rip the pinstipes off of Bobby Meacham holding Damon up from scoring on a thirty hop single to center. What is the most puzzling, for me, is Ian Kennedy’s unsatisfactory attitude. When I am at work, as a older man, I teach the younger employees what to do, and how to do it. Hasn’t anybody in the minor leagues explained to Kennedy what Yankee baseball means to us and what the pride, tradition, class of the organization have to mean to him in order for him to succeed at the major league level? If some minor league instrucors have attempted to teach Ian, and if he continues not to understand, Ian would perhaps best be suited for some other team as, say, the San Diego Padres, whose finest salad days were when the team was wearing mustard brown uniforms.

    • steve (different one)

      very deep

      • ChrisS

        and without paragraphs …

        I just don’t get the Melky hate. He’s a, now, 24 year old. A lot of very good players don’t make their ML debuts until 25. I think that trying to have him grow as a ML hitter so young at the ML level is more because of the lack of positional prospects the Yankees had/have. And that Cashman wasn’ t about to trade Hughes and bunch of other goodies for a CFer when they had a 21 year old that posted nearly a 1.000 OPS in April ’06 at AAA with solid D while Bernie couldn’t chase down flyballs anymore.

        The experiment went on a little too long, but whatever. Melky will still valuable even if he’s not a starter on the ML club. A league average OFer with a 5-7 year career is still attractive to other teams. Randy Winn isn’t all that great, a bit better than league average and he turned that into a $5 million/year paycheck.

  • RobertGKramer

    I feel Melky can be a solid fourth outfielder/pinch hitter/pinch runner and maybe start for a second tier team. I wouldn’t be surprised if he hits .385 again at AAA and definately is a September call up. I don’t know how his speed compares to Christian, but, if he’s “on fire” he could get called on 8/31!