In his four plus years with the New York Yankees, Melky Cabrera was loved by many of the fans. But he was never appreciated by the management of the team.
Cabrera was often the talk of trade rumors until he was finally traded last week to Atlanta in a move which will bring Javier Vasquez back to New York.
But Cabrera was still only 25 years old, and he was a better player than he was given credit for.
The pole star in recent years for Yankee centerfielders has been Bernie Williams. Williams was an excellent player for New York for many years, and a comparison between young Williams and Cabrera leaves Cabrera a little short, but not by much.
There are a lot of legitimate comparisons between Bernie and Melky. Both came to the Yankees when they were very young. Melky first came to the team when he was only 20 years old, but he could not stick in that first season in 2005.
Both were switch hitters with an ability to run the bases well, although neither ever produced the stolen bases some would have predicted.
In the first five years that Williams played for the Yankees, he had a batting average of .276, an on base percentage of .359, a slugging percentage of .419, an OPS of .779, and an OPS+ of 111. (I included five years here because in his first two seasons he played in 147 games combined, which is close to what Melky had in his first full year in New York.)
By comparison, in his four full years with the Yankees, Melky hit .269, had an OBP of .331, a slugging percentage of .385, an OPS of .716, and an OPS+ of 88.
Melky probably would never have become the power hitter that Bernie became, but Melky was every bit as good on defense as Bernie was and had a better arm.
It became apparent, especially after the 2008 season, that Cabrera was never going to satisfy Joe Girardi or Brian Cashman.
During that 2008 season, Cabrera seemed to be a little too full of himself and was distracted. It eventually led to his demotion to Triple A.
As the 2009 season began, he lost his starting position to Brett Gardner, who proved unable to fill the role as regular centerfielder. Cabrera won the job back with inspired play. But even then, Girardi did not recognize Cabrera as the centerfielder, as he would move Cabrera to one of the corners if Gardner was put in the game.
Melky Cabrera will continue to mature. He will get better, and, as I have predicted on this site before, he will someday be an All-Star in the outfield. It will not be with the Yankees, who once again have shown that all their talk about getting younger and giving younger players a chance to prove themselves is so much talk.
One has to wonder whether the Yankees would ever have been as good in the late '90s if they had traded Bernie Williams when he was 25 years old. They gave him a chance to mature and become a great hitter and a key producer on championship teams.
Good luck to Melky. Hopefully the Braves management will recognize his abilities and let him have the chance to prove himself. It became clear that in New York he never really had a chance.