The best hitter in baseball watched a 2-2 fastball go right down the middle with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning last night, as the San Francisco Giants swept the Detroit Tigers to win the World Series.
For fans of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Los Angeles Dodgers, and perhaps any other team in Major League Baseball, it might not be a World Series win for the Giants, but rather a World Series win*.
Remember Melky Cabrera?
The Giants left-fielder was suspended in August for 50 games after he got caught with an unnatural level of testosterone in his system, and he later admitted to using a banned substance.
At the time, the Giants had already won 64 games, whereas their main NL West foes, the Dodgers and Diamondbacks, had won 65 and 58, respectively.
One year removed from getting forced out of the playoffs by another player with a dirty urine test, Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson wasn't happy with the news about Cabrera.
"We've made a commitment to stopping that kind of activity and we still from time to time find that people are still trying to fool the system," Gibson told MLB.com's Steve Gilbert in August. "Maybe they should consider a much stricter penalty. It's just bull. I would say the majority of the people who are in this game care about the integrity of the game. We're all committed to that and cleaning it up. Obviously there's not a big enough deterrent if it continues so I think the penalty needs to be much more severe."
Gilbert noted, "In nine games against the D-backs this year, Cabrera hit .462 (18-for-39) with three doubles, two homers, eight runs scored and six RBIs."
The defense for Giants fans is simple: not only did the Giants have a higher winning percentage after Cabrera's suspension, but his WAR (wins above replacement) was a little less than five, and the Dodgers finished the season eight games back -- the Diamondbacks were back 13. Without him, the Giants lasted -- even thrived -- at the end of the season, and won throughout the playoffs without him.
Still, there are innumerable variables in those 64 games with Cabrera that would be impossible to solve. Would the Giants have won fewer than 64 games at that point without Cabrera? More? What about Cabrera helping the Giants earn home-field advantage for the World Series with his MVP performance at the All-Star Game?
Consider the fact that the Diamondbacks won the division over the Giants by just two games in 2001 -- when the Diamondbacks won the World Series, and Barry Bonds hit 73 homers.
Sabermetrics might give us an idea of what could've happened had the Giants not been allowed to play with a cheater for a good portion of the season, but they don't give us the answer. Maybe those calls to penalize players and teams for PED use should be answered. As Gibby pointed out, the incentive for players to juice is still there.
Watching the Giants' playoff run, it certainly looked like they deserved to win the World Series, and they did. However, they're still World Series champions*.