SAN FRANCISCO -- Now for the latest trend in National League postseason baseball: For the second consecutive series, one of the key players will be someone who has no shot at getting onto the field. The difference this time is that Melky Cabrera of the Giants is not only gone, he is all but forgotten.
Even though Cabrera was leading the league in hitting when he was suspended for 50 games for having used a banned substance, his absence is not as conspicuous in the NLCS against the Cardinals as was pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg's in the Nationals' Division Series loss to the Cardinals.
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In a controversial decision, Strasburg was shelved to protect his arm. Cabrera, who was reinstated by Major League Baseball after his 50 games were up following the Giants' five-game Division Series, has been shut down to protect the Giants' chemistry -- and possibly the integrity of the sport. So despite his .346 average before his Aug. 15 ban, Cabrera was left off the NLCS roster. It has not generated heated debate. Melky who?
"We crossed that bridge a while back, and haven't really brought it up or thought about it until you just mentioned it," Giants manager Bruce Bochy told a reporter during a news conference before Game 1 Sunday night.
"We said a while back -- I can't remember the day -- that we would go with the guys who helped us get here."
The club made that announcement in late September, making it clear to Cabrera's representatives that it would not be sending the player to a rehab assignment that could get him in condition for the NLCS. At the time, the player's agent issued a statement in which Cabrera said, "While I am disappointed that I won't have the chance to join my team in the playoffs, I wish my teammates the best in the postseason and I'll be rooting hard for them to bring another world championship to San Francisco."
Early in September, Cabrera, the All-Star Game Most Valuable Player, formally removed himself from consideration for the batting title, saying, "I have no wish to win an award that would be tainted. I believe it would be far better for someone more deserving to win."
As it turned out, that someone was teammate Buster Posey, who hit .336. Still, the Giants had immense struggles at the plate early in the Division Series against the Reds. They had no hits through five innings against Homer Bailey in Game 3, but won that game and the next two.
Bochy said outfielders Gregor Blanco and Xavier Nady earned their places on the roster. "We weren't talking about, 'Well, if they struggled, we'll change our minds.' We just said we'd move forward," he said. "We felt that these are the guys that should be out there for the playoffs."
He is especially proud of Nady, the well-traveled former Met and Yankee who has suffered numerous injuries. Nady signed with the Giants Aug. 5 -- 10 days before Cabrera's suspension -- after a short stay with the Nationals didn't work.
"I give him a lot of credit. He has persevered," Bochy said. "Xavier was not ready to go home and give up baseball. He hadn't played in a while, but he started swinging the bat well. We made the move to bring him here and he has helped us."
The Giants have not given up on Cabrera. They have kept him on their 40-man roster, leaving open the slight chance he could return next season if the price is low.