The reigning All-Star Game MVP has been crotch-chopping and double-dog daring his way onto the Braves' doo-doo list in recent games, which could — and perhaps should — earn him a couple of inside fastballs whenever he steps into the box on Thursday.
Cabrera has drawn the ire of Braves fans during the Giants' series down at Turner Fielder this week for a number of reasons. It could be him waving his hand to try and bait Jason Heyward to tag up from second base on a deep flyball to left field. It could be his DX style cross-chops and excessive celebrating. Or, hell, it could be the fact that he looks locked in at the plate against his former club. Whatever the case may be, he's obviously striking a chord.
All of the iffy conduct this series could stem from Cabrera's history with the Braves. He was heinous for Atlanta in 2010. Not only did he show up looking like he had just gone on a three-month binge that included routine 4 a.m. McDonald's trips, but he posted poor numbers that obviously aren't indicative of the talent he possesses. He hit four home runs, drove in 42 runs, batted .255 and compiled an on-base percentage of .317 in 147 games with Atlanta in 2010 — numbers he's blowing out of the water this season out in the Bay Area.
Now, the Braves could have showed some faith in Cabrera at that point rather than non-tendering him following his less-than-stellar season, but can you blame general manager Frank Wren for not wanting to bring back the struggling, "pudgy" outfielder? How could he ever envision Cabrera getting back into shape and emerging as an NL batting crown candidate in 2012? Few did.
With all that considered, it's natural for Cabrera to want to make the Braves pay. But his doing so at the plate is enough, especially to those Braves fans who suffered through his miserable season in Hotlanta. Faking like you're throwing balls at fans and daring runners to run on you instead reeks of drama, much like you'll see in the squared circle on Monday night.
The big thing, however, is that this could be just the tip of the iceberg. This isn't to say Cabrera will let his rising stardom go to his head, but he'd be wise to make sure it doesn't. In fact, even Giants manager Bruce Bochy seems to realize that Cabrera's antics against the Braves are rather un-Melky-like.
"That's not like Melky," Bochy said before Thursday's game, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. "I'm not into trying to show up the other club. The guys know that. You know Melky. He's quiet and goes about his business. I think he knows a lot of those guys and he was more having fun out there, not trying to show them up."
Perhaps it'll take just getting out of Atlanta for Melky to go back to being Melky, but when you suddenly find yourself second in the league in batting and on the heels of an impressive All-Star Game, a little bit of confidence inevitably sets in. The main thing is making sure that confidence doesn't translate into cockiness, because in baseball, that has its drawbacks.
Having fun is what the game is all about, so for that, Cabrera shouldn't tone it down completely. After all, this is 2012, and a little WWE-style drama across sports never hurt anybody.
Cabrera just needs to understand things go both ways, and he therefore shouldn't get too comfortable in the box if he doesn't dial it back at least a little bit.