Melky Cabrera's best season in the MLB was derailed on Wednesday with a 50-game suspension.
The Giants outfielder will miss the rest of the regular season, as well as up to five playoff games, after he failed a test for performance-enhancing drugs.
Cabrera has been one of the biggest surprises of the 2012 season. He's batting .346 with 11 home runs and 60 RBI for San Francisco. He started in his first ever All-Star Game, and even won the MVP award for the contest.
While the outfielder is done for the season because he cheated, he's still in line to win one of the major awards. Cabrera is second in the race for the National League batting title, behind Andrew McCutchen, who leads the NL with a .358 average.
After his suspension, Cabrera may be in an even better position to win the award. His average can't drop over the final quarter of the season, and there's a good chance that .346 will be good enough to get the job done. Out of the past seven NL batting champions, only one finished with an average better than Cabrera's.
When batting title races have been close in the past, some players have sat in the last game of the season, in order to ensure themselves of the award. Jose Reyes created some controversy in 2011. He pulled himself out of the Mets lineup after his first at-bat of the team's final game, and ended the season with a league-leading .337 average.
If Cabrera's average is good enough to put him in first, should Major League Baseball give the award to the second place finisher?
If history is any indicator, the league wouldn't take any action.
It would certainly be an unprecedented move. Cabrera already has enough plate appearances for the whole year to qualify for the award.
Ryan Braun tested positive for a banned substance last offseason, shortly after he won the NL MVP award. Bud Selig never took any steps to give the award to someone else.
There have also been past award winners who've won the award and admitted to using steroids, yet nothing was done.
However, the situation with Cabrera is unlike any other that has been seen in baseball history. Braun's suspension didn't come until after he was voted the most valuable player. Selig could, theoretically, issue a pre-emptive strike, and announce that in the case that Cabrera finishes with the highest average, he won't be recognized as the batting champion.
After all, the suspended outfielder has admitted to cheating.
"My positive test was the result of my use of a substance I should not have used," said Cabrera in a statement. "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."
When Braun was initially suspended, he denied using PED's, and eventually won his appeal. Cabrera, on the other hand, has accepted the league's decision. He might not even challenge the league's decision to give the award to the second place finisher.
Cabrera's production increased exponentially this year. His .346 average is .41 points higher than his career high.