Apparently the only motivation Melky Carbera needed to get his career back on track was the threat of being stripped of his pinstripes. Following a disastrous 2008 that included a demotion to the minors and the Yankees' acquisition of Xavier Nady, it looked as if Cabrera would be the odd man out in the New York outfield. The emergence of Brett Gardner as the starting centerfielder this spring only solidified that perception.
A once heralded prospect, at 23 years old Melky Cabrera seemed washed up before his time, likely to be traded away or possibly even released. Outplayed by Gardner throughout spring training, Cabrera found himself on the major league roster only because of injuries and manager Joe Girardi's reluctance to bat Brett against left-handed pitching.
But as the season progressed the always injury-prone Nady went down, put on the DL with a torn ligament in his elbow, and Brett Gardner struggled, giving Cabrera an unexpected "last chance" to prove himself worthy of his uniform and his position. Needless to say, despite very little belief in his abilities, Melky has seized upon the opportunity and perhaps has even returned his baseball destiny to a direction leading through the Bronx.
2008 was the ultimate low point for the young Yankees outfielder. Posting a .249 batting average with an embarrassing .301 OBP and .641 OPS, Melky was so
ineffective at the plate that he was eventually demoted for a 15-game minor league stint at the Yankees AAA affiliate Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Cabrera, who was only an average offensive player prior to 2008, was seemingly at a point of regression that signaled his development had stopped and was even in decay. The consensus was that Cabrera was essentially a "bust." Like Shane Spencer and Ricky Ledee before him, Melky's fate was one common to many players, but especially for the Yankees, who have not produced a regular starting outfielder from their farm system (aside from Cabrera) since Bernie Williams.