San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera, who is serving a drug suspension for the rest of the season, removed himself from the race for the National League batting title while in the lead.
Cabrera was hitting .346 -- an average that now leads the NL -- when he was banned for 50 games by Major League Baseball on Aug. 15 after testing positive for testosterone.
With less than two weeks remaining in the major league season, Cabrera has an eight-point lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen, who is batting .338.
His request to be removed from consideration was granted in an agreement between baseball and its players’ union, according to news releases yesterday from both parties.
“I have no wish to win an award that would be tainted,” Cabrera said in an e-mailed statement. “I believe it would be far better for someone more deserving to win.”
MLB and the MLB Players’ Association agreed on a one-time amendment to Rule 10.22(a), which states that a player can still win the batting title if he fails to reach 502 plate appearances by adding hitless at-bats until he reaches 502. If that average still tops any other qualified batter, he wins the title.
Cabrera had 501 plate appearances this season.
The rule won’t be applicable this season for any suspended player within reach of the batting, slugging or on-base percentage titles.
“I know that changing the rules midseason can present problems, and I thank the players’ association and MLB for finding a way to get this done,” Cabrera said.
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said two days ago that MLB generally doesn’t intervene in such situations.
“After giving this matter the consideration it deserves, I have decided that Major League Baseball will comply with Mr. Cabrera’s request,” Selig said in a statement yesterday. “I respect his gesture as a sign of his regret and his desire to move forward, and I believe that, under these circumstances, the outcome is appropriate, particularly for Mr. Cabrera’s peers who are contending for the batting crown.”
The union “complied with Melky’s wish and brought the matter to the commissioner’s office, which agreed to suspend the rule,” MLBPA Executive Director Michael Weiner said. “We commend Melky’s decision under these circumstances.”
The rule involved is often referred to as the Tony Gwynn Rule. It enabled the Hall of Fame player for the San Diego Padres to win the 1996 batting title with a .353 average in 498 plate appearances, four shy of the minimum.
Cabrera, who joined the major leagues in 2005, played his first five seasons with the New York Yankees. He’s also had one-year stints with the Atlanta Braves and Kansas City Royals. He signed a one-year, $6 million deal with the Giants before this season.