Yesterday was Melky’s day, except when it wasn’t. Take away two of his at bats and he’s 2 for 4 with two homers, a walk, and 3 RIB — including, of course, the game-winner. He did have those two at bats, though, and he looked helpless in both, striking out both times on eight pitches total. This game basically embodies Melky’s young 2009 season. He’s 7 for 25 on the season with four homers (to three singles). Yet on the majority of those 18 outs he’s looked pretty foolish.
I don’t think I’ll ever understand Melky Cabrera. Some times he looks like he could be an average starting center fielder, getting on base at a decent clip, though not with much power, and playing a solid if unspectacular defense. Plus, his arm doesn’t hurt his case. Other times he looks like he can’t catch up to a Jamie Moyer fastball. We saw way too much of the latter last year, so that’s what most people remember. There was a time when Melky had quite a few more advocates.
The hype around Melky started in early 2005, after Pinsripes Plus ranked him the No. 2 Yankees prospect. Baseball America had him at No. 8. Despite a poor 2005 campaign the Yankees called him upon July 7. They ended the experiment just six games later. He had little chance of breaking camp in 2006, but he made a statement by hitting .385/.430/.566 in 135 AAA plate appearances. That earned him a call-up after the Yanks lost both Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield to injuries.
Many a Yankees fan fell in love with Melky that summer. It was hard not to. He had youthful energy the team lacked at the time. Plus, he didn’t suck, hitting .280/.360/.391. That’s not bad for a 21-year-old. It seemed everyone was high on Melky during the 2006-2007 off-season. That wore of a bit after he started slow in 2007, hitting .190 on May 1. Compounding matters was Johnny Damon and his calf issues. But Melky stepped up, OPSing .762 in May, .811 in June, .939 (!!) in July, and .818 in August. Then it all came crumbling down again, and his September was as bad as his April.
We all remember last year: beast in April, horrible the rest of the year. How could someone — who has two solid Major League seasons under his belt — go from hitting .299/.370/.494 in April to finish the year .249/.301/.341? I’m having a hard time recalling exactly how Melky looked in April 2008, but I wonder if it’s kind of how he looks now: Overmatched at times, in control at others. Apparently, I thought this way in 2007.
What does it all mean? If only there were an answer. After having watched him with my lying eyes for the past three-plus years I say fourth outfielder. Yet he shows flashes of brilliance. Do they reveal his true potential? I don’t know. All I do know is that I alternate between saying Melky! and saying it like this (usually after a flailing strikeout):
I wish Melky would just pick one and stick with it.