DUNEDIN, Florida – The Mayans were wrong. The world didn't end in 2012. But for Melky Cabrera, his baseball universe came crashing down.
He doesn't want to talk about it. Legally, it's not in his best interest to discuss the matter but the questions for the new Blue Jays' left fielder surrounding his use of performance-enhancing drugs won't go away, even if his answer to each inquiry is virtually the same.
"I made a mistake last year," said Cabrera, addressing the media upon his arrival in Dunedin and mere minutes after the Blue Jays released an official statement on the matter. "I've prepared myself mentally and physically in the Dominican. I'm ready for a new beginning and ready to help this club win some games."
The 28-year-old was suspended 50 games for a positive drug test last August then watched as his San Francisco Giants won the World Series. Cabrera's absence wasn't felt on the field but his contributions to the championship cannot be ignored. At the time of the suspension, Cabrera led the majors with a .346 batting average and had previously been named MVP of the All-Star Game, which by virtue of the National League's win, clinched home field for its representative in the World Series.
Now, another storm cloud hovers over Cabrera. Major League Baseball is investigating a Miami New Times report detailing a defunct South Florida anti-aging clinic, which allegedly doled out PEDs to a handful of noteworthy players. Cabrera's name has been linked to Biogenesis. Still, the Blue Jays are choosing to trust that the man they signed to a two-year, $16-million contract is clean. They have no other option.
"It's the elephant in the room (Cabrera's PED use,)" said Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos. "We have to have that conversation. (Cabrera's) joining our family, joining our organization. We have to talk about the elephant in the room and what the issues may or may not be."
Anthopoulos cannot be sure whether Cabrera will face additional sanctions from the league in the event its investigation finds evidence of wrongdoing. In the next breath, Anthopoulos will tell you he has been given no indication more penalties are likely and expects there to be none.
What is just as unclear is what Cabrera will provide the Blue Jays. After playing most of five seasons with the Yankees, Cabrera's worst year came in 2010 as a member of the Braves, when he hit .255 and was, by all accounts, out of shape. He bounced back the next season in Kansas City but that is the point at which questions about his substance abuse began. Manager John Gibbons, who was the Royals' bench coach in 2011, saw Cabrera in-person for a full season and expects the native of the Dominican Republic to bring plenty to the table.
""He'll thrive on (the doubts about his game,)" said Gibbons. "He's one of those guys, he likes the spotlight. When the game's on the line, when you need something done right, he's one of the guys we wanted up there in that particular year when I was with him."
What Cabrera wants is a clean slate. He has one, at least in the eyes of Gibbons.
"Once you admit what happened and acknowledge it, people in this business forgive you and they pull for you."