Though none of the Giants said so directly, an undercurrent of frustration ran through their AT&T Park clubhouse as they struggled to understand why Cabrera, a seven-year Major League veteran, would flout established rules.
"Ultimately it was just a bad decision," said catcher Buster Posey. "That's all I'm really going to say about it."
Asked if anger was among the emotions he felt, manager Bruce Bochy replied, "I'd say more disappointment. He's such a great teammate and was having such a nice year for us. Unfortunately, these things happen in baseball. There's not a lot you can do about it. I guess the best thing you can do is keep educating players so these things don't happen."
Tied for first place in the NL West with the Dodgers as play began Wednesday, the Giants had 45 scheduled regular-season games remaining as Cabrera was officially sidelined. His suspension will continue into the postseason if the Giants qualify, but Cabrera could return if San Francisco plays at least five additional games after the end of its schedule. That would complete his suspension.
"I'm not thinking about that," Bochy said. "We have too many games in front of us. This is a tight race. So I'll be honest -- that's the last thing on my mind right now."
Of course, reaching the postseason will become a challenge for the Giants without Cabrera, their No. 3 hitter. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval batted third in Wednesday's series finale against the Washington Nationals and can be expected to fill that role for the remainder of the season. Gregor Blanco replaced Cabrera in left field, though it's questionable whether he'll receive the bulk of the playing time at that spot.
The Giants did not immediately announce a replacement for Cabrera on the 25-man active roster.
"My positive test was the result of my use of a substance I should not have used," Cabrera said in a statement issued by the MLB Players Association. "I accept my suspension under the Joint Drug Program and I will try to move on with my life. I am deeply sorry for my mistake and I apologize to my teammates, to the San Francisco Giants organization, and to the fans for letting them down."
The Giants also issued a statement:
"We were extremely disappointed to learn of the suspension of Melky Cabrera for violating Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. We fully support Major League Baseball's policy and its efforts to eliminate performance-enhancing drugs from our game. Per the protocol outline by Major League Baseball's Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Giants will not comment further on this matter."
Cabrera's batting average was 13 points behind that of league-leader Andrew McCutchen of Pittsburgh prior to Wednesday's games. With 501 plate appearances, Cabrera is one shy of automatically qualifying for the NL batting title. However, he would win the title if he were still to have the league's highest average with a theoretical addition of one at-bat.
To explain, Cabrera is 159-for-459, good for a batting average of .3464 when carried to a fourth decimal. If Cabrera were theoretically given one more at-bat, 159-for-460 comes to an average of .3456. Both figures round out to .346. If no qualifying batter has hit for a higher average, Cabrera would be the NL batting champion.
Such a process was a factor in Tony Gwynn's NL batting title in 1996, when he hit .353 but had 498 plate appearances. The addition of four at-bats would have given Gwynn a .349 average, five points better than the runner-up, Ellis Burks of Colorado. Thus, Gwynn was named the batting champion.
Cabrera's season-long excellence this year appeared to guarantee him a lucrative contract after this season, when he'll be eligible for free agency. The Giants reportedly explored a multiyear extension for Cabrera recently but broke off talks with his representatives.
Cabrera signed a one-year, $6 million contract with the Giants prior to the season.
Cabrera, acquired by the Giants in a November trade with Kansas City for pitcher Jonathan Sanchez, has been a popular player since his arrival as a full-time Major Leaguer with the Yankees in 2006. His personality prompted T-shirts reading, "Got Melk?" -- a take-off on the "Got Milk?" advertising campaign -- and he carries numerous nicknames such as "Melk Man."
Cabrera became a favorite among Giants fans, too. They responded to his torrid hitting in May, when he amassed 51 hits to equal Randy Winn's San Francisco-era franchise record for a month. Cabrera's performance inspired a band of rooters to wear milkmen's outfits to AT&T Park and call themselves the "Melkmen."
He was the starting center fielder for the 2009 World Series-champion Yankees, but was traded to Atlanta after the season. He had a poor year with the Braves, batting .255, and was traded to the Royals. He had a resurgence with Kansas City, batting .305 with 44 doubles and 87 RBIs.
Cabrera broke out in a big way this season, batting .429 in May with three homers, five triples, seven doubles and 17 RBIs.
He is the second Giants player to receive a suspension this year for using a performance-enhancing substance. Reliever Guillermo Mota is currently serving a 100-game suspension for testing positive for Clenbuterol, his second suspension for violating MLB's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. He has begun throwing in anticipation of rejoining the Giants.