Melky Cabrera just swung the gate open wide

August, 15, 2012
8/15/12
1:39
PM PT
The last thing the Dodgers should be doing is gloating.

It was only three years ago that they were the ones dealing with the shame and disappointment of having a star player banned for 50 games for testing positive for a banned substance. The difference is that Manny Ramirez got caught in May while Melky Cabrera will miss the remainder of the San Francisco Giants' season and, if they get there, a handful of playoff games.

Cabrera just took away any excuse the Dodgers could have for not reaching the post-season. He's the second-best position player on a team that, like the Dodgers, has rooted around in every corner for offense. Other than Buster Posey, Cabrera is the only Giant with a batting average greater than .300 or a double-digit home run total.

Posey's WAR, according to baseball-reference.com, is 4.9. Cabrera's is 4.8. The next best Giants hitter, Brandon Belt, is at 1.8.

The news of Cabrera's suspension leaves the Giants spinning. The Dodgers should be viewed as having gone from slight favorites to overwhelming favorites to win the West. It's not just the impact it has on the NL West, though, but the way it shifts the whole NL playoff picture. The Dodgers play the Giants nine more times this season. Even if the Arizona Diamondbacks suddenly catch fire, as the Colorado Rockies did a few years ago, the Dodgers should have a wide berth in the wild-card race.

Just as the Giants' offense takes a blow it might not be able to recover from, the Dodgers are looking as productive as they've been all season. Newcomers Shane Victorino and Hanley Ramirez are beginning to mesh in the lineup and the Dodgers' two best hitters, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, have their legs under them again. The Dodgers are halfway through their toughest remaining road trip and they've taken four of five games thus far.

Dodgers fans will remember that their team still won 95 games and made it all the way to the NLCS the year Ramirez got nabbed. But by then, Manny had probably already been passed as the best player on his team, perhaps twice. Kemp and Ethier combined for 57 home runs and 207 RBIs that season.

The parallels are a little too close for the Dodgers' comfort. The differences open up a world of possibilities.

Mark Saxon

ESPNLosAngeles.com
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. He spent six years at the Orange County Register, and began his career at the Oakland Tribune, where he started an 11-year journey covering Major League Baseball. He has also covered colleges, including USC football and UCLA basketball.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Clayton Kershaw
WINS ERA SO IP
21 1.77 239 198
OTHER LEADERS
BAY. Puig .296
HRA. Gonzalez 27
RBIA. Gonzalez 116
RY. Puig 92
OPSY. Puig .863
ERAC. Kershaw 1.77
SOC. Kershaw 239