When a friend told me this morning that Melky Cabrera had been traded, I was shocked.
It wasn't even a rumor. It just happened. Abruptly.
Despite Melky's inconsistency at the plate, he was a fan favorite in New York. Teammates and fans enjoyed his jovial demeanor on a team generally regarded as rigid. It has always seemed like Melky plays for his love of baseball rather than for the money he earns.
Whether he was chasing down a deep fly ball, making his signature wide turn around first, or delivering in the clutch, Melky was a joy to watch every night. And it's a shame that he is no longer a Yankee.
This slideshow commemorates some of the highlights of Melky's career in New York.
Although Melky struck out in his first at-bat, he found his stroke the second time around, ripping a Kevin Millwood pitch into left field for his first major league hit. Melky started in center field and caught four fly balls.
In the eighth inning on this June night, Manny Ramirez stepped into the batter's box to face Kyle Farnsworth. There were two outs and no runners on base. The score was 2-1 in favor of the Yankees. One more out would put the game in the hands of Mariano Rivera.
Farnsworth's second pitch to Ramirez was a fastball, which the revered slugger pounced on. The ball went high and deep into the Bronx night as Yankee fans held their breath.
As the ball was about to clear the fence, Melky leaped in stride. He crashed into the wall, fell to the warning track, and held onto what would have been a game-tying home run.
The catch became an instant classic.
Only nine days after his most memorable defensive play, Melky turned on a 1-2 pitch from Cliff Lee. The ball landed in the left field stands and Melky trotted around the bases of Yankee Stadium for the first time of his career.
I was fortunate enough to attend this game. From the upper deck behind first base, Melky's smile was visible as he rounded third base.
Opponent: Cleveland Indians (once again)
Pitcher: Paul Byrd
Runners on: Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, Andy Phillips
Batter: Melky Cabrera
Melky sent Byrd's 1-0 pitch over the right-center wall. The Indians simply did not have an answer for Melky, who went 3-for-4 with five RBI.
Hitless in his first four at-bats, Melky led off the bottom of the 11th inning against the Seattle Mariners. Four pitches later, he was rounding the bases as pitcher Julio Mateo hung his head and walked off the field.
In the midst of a slow start to 2009, the Yankees desperately needed a sweep against Oakland on Apr. 22. Melky was ready to deliver.
He had already homered earlier in the game before stepping up to the plate in the 14th inning in a 7-7 tie. With rain clouds still hiding the sun, Melky sent Dan Giese's pitch over the right-center field fence to win the game.
Apr. 22 was the first of many 2009 clutch performances by the Yankees' former center fielder.
With his team trailing 4-3 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Melky singled in Mark Teixeira and Ramiro Pena to beat Joe Nathan and the Minnesota Twins.
After his buddy Robinson Cano singled and stole second in the bottom of the ninth inning against Philadelphia, Melky singled off of Brad Lidge to win the game.
Less than one month after throwing a perfect game, Mark Buehrle was far from perfect against the Yankees, especially against Melky. The Yankee center fielder became the first Bronx Bomber to hit for the cycle since Tony Fernandez accomplished the feat in 1995.
It's no secret. Melky and Cano are best friends who enjoy each other's company on the field. Watching the two of them interact is always entertaining.
One memorable Melky/Cano moment that epitomizes their relationship: After stumbling on his wide turn around first base and falling face first into the dirt, Melky looked back into the Yankee dugout to see Cano cracking up. Melky's reaction: A smile and a shrug.
Unfortunately for Cano (and Yankee fans), his best friend is headed to Atlanta.