Melky Cabrera ruled ineligible for batting title

Hunter Martin - Getty Images

At Melky Cabrera's request, Major League Baseball has changed an obscure rule to make Cabrera ineligible for the National League batting title.

Ever since Melky Cabrera began serving his 50-game suspension for failing a drug test, there's been a looming crisis ...

What if Cabrera finished the season with the highest batting average in the National League?

When his season ended, Cabrera had a .346 batting average in 501 plate appearances ... one plate appearance short of qualifying for the batting title. Crisis averted! Except there's a little-known (until) now codicil in the rules. According to Rule 10.22(a), a player's batting average can be refigured with the addition of enough hitless plate appearances to reach 502.

In Cabrera's case, this means adding one plate appearance, dropping his batting average from .346 all the way to ...

.346

Friday morning, .346 was good enough for first place in the National League, seven points ahead of Andrew McCutchen and 11 ahead of Buster Posey.

The prospect of a suspended player winning a batting title -- on a technicality, no less -- has offended the sensibilities of many observers since the moment the prospect appeared. But with McCutchen on track for the title, nobody worried too much about it. Now, though, with McCutchen not on track ...

In an unprecedented agreement between Major League Baseball and union officials, suspended Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera will be ruled ineligible to win the 2012 NL batting title, sources told CSNBayArea.com.

Cabrera asked to be removed from consideration on Wednesday, when his representatives sent a letter to union officials. The Players’ Association worked out a one-time amendment to Rule 10.22(a) with MLB officials on Thursday, one day after Commissioner Bud Selig said publicly that he was not likely to take action on the matter.

--snip--

Under terms of the agreement, Rule 10.22(a) will not apply to suspended players.

As Andrew Baggarly points out, this is pretty obviously an effort by Cabrera to rehabilitate his reputation. It's likely that Major League Baseball wouldn't have been able to change the rule without the acquiescence of the union, and the union wouldn't have acquiesced without the acquiescence of Cabrera.

This is, it might be said, an elegant solution to an embarrassing problem. Rather than simply ruling that a suspended player can't win a batting title, this change simply disallows a player from taking advantage of a suspension. We may guess that if Cabrera had reached 502, nothing would have been done.

This time around, Baseball got lucky.

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