The Melkman Keeps On Delivering

The surprising success of Melky Cabrera

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Getty Images
    Clutch hits are the new black.

    Melky Cabrera would have to do a lot to wrest away the title of history's most memorable resurrection, but he's steadily making his way up the list. He's somewhere above Bret Michaels' fame right now, and a few more three-run homers against the Red Sox will have Mickey Rourke starting to sweat a little bit.

    His Thursday blast keyed the first Yankee victory over their rivals this season and added a page to a remarkable year that no one saw coming. An awful 2008, a lost Spring Training battle and whispers about off-field fun coming at the expense of on-field performance made Cabrera seem like he was destined for another uniform sooner rather than later and no one was crying their eyes out at the thought.

    Funny how a few walk-offs, a cycle and a homer against the Sox changes everything. Cabrera's now as integral a part of the lineup as A-Rod, Jeter and Teixeira, and he's posting the kind of season that forces you to reassess everything you thought you knew about a player. Cabrera, even pre-2008, seemed like a capable stopgap who would either morph into a fourth outfielder or a starter for a second-division club.

    Now, though, he's 25 and playing great baseball for a team that doesn't have a lot of sure answers in the outfield going forward. Cabrera's resurgence, and that's not even the right word since he's never been this good before, has given them a lot more flexibility. You can sign Johnny Damon for another year in a ballpark built for him and know Cabrera will cover for him defensively, or you could slide Cabrera into a corner if you feel Austin Jackson's ready for the big leagues or any number of other things. 

    Whatever winds up happening in 2010, though, won't change how good Cabrera's story has been in 2009. It's always fun to watch a player blossom, but it's so much better when you were convinced that the player was a weed in the first place.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.