NL Batting Title update
So… Melky Cabrera must have read the article I posted about the batting title rule. When he realized he was still eligible for the title and would likely win it, he contacted MLB and asked them to change the rule as he had “no wish to win an award that would widely be seen as tainted…” Ok, maybe he’s not reading this blog, but for whatever reasons MLB has changed the rule, supposedly on his request, for this season only.
Cabrera, through his agent, sent a letter to the head of the MLBPA saying “I personally have no wish to win an award that would widely be seen as tainted, and I believe that it would be far better for the remaining contenders to compete for that distinction”
MLB then drafted a change to the rule. The provision that said if a player was short of the minimum plate appearances but could still win the title by adding the missing PAs as at bats and keeping the same number of hits (i.e., he had 501 plate appearances, and his batting average would be calculated as if he had that 502nd one and went hitless in it) was changed to say that this provision will not apply this year for any player who “served a drug suspension for violating the Joint Drug Program”.
This isn’t the first time that the batting title rule has been changed. As OttoC at SoSH pointed out, the rules have changed many times. It was once as simple as playing in 60% of the team’s scheduled games. Later, Ted Williams was robbed of a title in 1954 when the criterion was 400 at bats. Teddy Ballgame only had 386 at bats that season even though he had 526 plate appearances. His .345 batting average was higher than Bobby Avila’s .341, but he was not awarded the title as he didn’t qualify, and adding the hitless at-bats to make him qualify would drop him lower. That off-season MLB changed the rule. But not retroactively and the Splendid Splinter once again was deprived of an award he should have had.
But there are still a myriad of problems with the rule change MLB has made. What if another player was suspended and he had 503 PAs? The season isn’t over yet. What if Miggy Cabrera, or Buster Posey are caught and suspended for PED usage this week? (before sending me hate mail, please note that in no way am I implying that I think either of these players are cheating – just using them as examples). The rule change only said if a player was suspended and didn’t have enough PAs, the provision to add hitless PAs to his record would not apply. And think of future years. What about a HR champ that is suspended late in the season after having an insurmountable lead? Bud Selig and MLB always make rule changes AFTER something happens. How about being proactive for a change? It’s not that hard.
Here’s my proposal: Draft a rule change saying that any player that is suspended during the season is not eligible for any titles or awards that season. (other than if he’s already won them, like say an all-star game MVP before being suspended – hard to take that away after the fact). Ask the MLBPA what they think of it. I doubt they would get a lot of backlash. It’s also in their interest for the public to think their star players are clean. This would at least help that perception.