SAN FRANCISCO I'm done moralizing on the issue of steroids in baseball. Melky Cabrera was the last straw.
Long before the Giants announced Thursday that they wouldn't tap Cabrera's services in the playoffs if presented with the opportunity, I had moved on from this tired topic.
It would have been more interesting if the Giants had left the door open for Cabrera's return in October. The skeptic in me believes they still could, if playoff advancement coincided with untimely injuries and a reconsideration of Cabrera if World Series riches were within reach.
Cabrera was the All-Star Game MVP and was building toward a National League batting title when he was suspended Aug. 15 after testing positive for testosterone, a banned substance.
Would it be so terrible if he returned in the heat of the World Series chase? No. Cabrera was busted and punished. It's time to move on, wise up.
There can be no more denying how widespread and pervasive the Steroid Era has been in baseball. For all teams and fans, humility is one drug test away.
Consequently, I'm getting off the slippery slope.
I don't want players to use steroids in the game I love, but I acknowledge that many do. I want tougher tests, random tests and tougher penalties.
If some guys still get caught, it's not the end of the world. It's just a reflection of the human condition.
It makes perfect sense why the Giants are keeping the door closed on Cabrera right now. He bolted without apologizing to his teammates a major breach of clubhouse protocol.
Moreover, Cabrera's loss a supposed gut punch to the Giants' fervent aspirations became a rallying point for the team. They've gone 27-12 since. Midseason acquisitions such as Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro not only helped fill Cabrera's void, they provided the Giants a stiffened resolve to counteract Cabrera's cowardice.
Pence and Scutaro both hit home runs Thursday afternoon in the Giants' 7-3 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks to punctuate the post-Cabrera resurgence in the last home game of the regular season.
You can't disrespect the team chemistry that saved the regular season by undermining it with a Cabrera reunion in the postseason. It would send the wrong message to the 25 men who accepted additional accountability to counteract Cabrera's lack of accountability.
But once the regular season is over on Wednesday, a new postseason begins with a blank slate of challenges and variables.
What if an already injury-prone Xavier Nady went down in the playoffs or Gregor Blanco? Or what if Brandon Belt chasing treacherous fly balls in October made the Giants' brass too nervous?
The Giants replaced Cabrera in the box score but not in left field.
Admittedly, his return is a long shot for a variety of reasons, including the practical reality that he would be rusty from a long layoff.
There is also the slippery slope of steroid morality.
Some steroid moralists already label the franchise "steroid central" because several Giants have been busted for or tainted by performance-enhancing drugs including Barry Bonds, baseball's all-time home run leader.
The club seemed to be moving beyond that when Cabrera and reliever Guillermo Mota earlier flunked their drug tests this season.
Cabrera became a punchline when it was revealed that he and his handlers tried to concoct a harebrained scheme that would make it look as if he accidentally used testosterone.
Because of this, maybe a clean break is best? Maybe the Giants are extra-sensitive to Commissioner Bud Selig's reaction to a Cabrera return in October while the Giants try to curry favor with the league office to prevent the A's from relocating to San Jose?
Perhaps, but there are no maybes about this: We may not be in the post-Steroid Era, but it is time for the post-steroid morality era.
We can't expect all the players to be role models. We should acknowledge that Ryan Braun, last year's National League MVP, avoided steroid punishment via a technicality.
Braun is no less guilty than Cabrera, and here he is again having a big season in 2012.
Nearly all the guys busted for steroids have lied about it in some way, in part because there has been little incentive within baseball for players to tell the truth.
I plead guilty to my part in a decade of hand wringing and finger pointing with no end. Enough. Catch the cheaters. Play ball.
Baseball evolved from the shame of racial segregation, and it can evolve from men named Melky, too.
It's a beautiful pastime practiced by humans who will inspire, anger and disappoint, as humans do. Why would we expect otherwise?