Somehow I missed this story at the time. Toward the end of July, Andrew Baggarly -- who covers the San Francisco Giants for CSNBayArea.com -- heard some completely unsourced rumors about Melky Cabrera failing a drug test. Further, it was the sort of failed drug test that would lead to a 50-game suspension.
Without a credible source, what should Baggarly do?
On the 27th of July, Baggarly did exactly what reporters are supposed to do: He asked Melky Cabrera directly about the rumor. I applaud Baggarly for doing that. I'm not so sure about what happened next.
Baggarly took Cabrera's response completely at face value.
First, he apparently addressed the rumor via Twitter, while at the same time discrediting it. Almost immediately, Baggarly regretted that decision; it would have been better, he soon wrote, to let the rumor die without addressing it. In fact, he felt so bad about perpetuating the rumor that he offered a lengthy apology to Cabrera, "the rest of the Giants clubhouse, coaches and front-office personnel."
Hey, I'm all for apologies. They're not easy for most of us, and should be applauded. Once again, I applaud. But there's a part of Baggarly's apology that troubles me:
Let’s be clear: There is no evidence that there is any shred of truth to these rumors. Cabrera knew nothing about it. He contacted the union and his agent. They told him the rumors were unfounded as well. If Cabrera had failed a test, he and the union would’ve been the first to know. The rumor, to my knowledge, is a red herring. Cabrera even suggested to me that Dodgers fans could have made it up as a distraction.
Why on earth should Baggarly have believed Cabrera? I mean, believed him 90 percent? Sure. Even 95 percent. I probably would have. I have a trusting nature. But it seems to me that Cabrera might have lied about everything. He might have lied about contacting the union and his agent. He might have contacted the union and his agent, but he might have lied about what they told him.
I know it's easy to second-guess how Baggarly handled the story, but it seems to me that once he asked Cabrera and got a denial, he'd done just about all he could do.*
* Well, he could have contacted the union, and Cabrera's agent, and Brian Sabean. But none of them would have told him anything interesting, either.
Once he'd asked Cabrera and gotten that categorical denial, he probably should have just let it drop. But once he made the decision, however questionable, to report the rumor via Twitter, and then to apologize for that, he should have made it clear that Cabrera claimed a bunch of things. None of which could be confirmed.
This isn't about Andrew Baggarly not doing his job. It's about baseball players lying. And really, what else was Cabrera going to do? He certainly wasn't going to say, "Yes, I failed a drug test and now I'm in the middle of the appeals process. We'll know if I'm suspended on the 15th of August."
Granted, it does sound like his denial was a little over the top. But if you're going to lie, you might as well sell it. And the thing about Dodgers fans was a cute touch. Bonus points for that one, Melky!
More bonus points, though, if Cabrera actually apologizes to Andrew Baggarly. That seems only fair.