Emmanuel Burriss' Injury a Big Blow to the San Francisco Giants

Kevin O'BrienCorrespondent IJuly 17, 2009

As the Giants begin their first series of the second half today against the Pittsburgh Pirates, whispers are fluttering from the Triple-A clubhouse in Fresno.

There are rumors that Emmanuel Burriss's toe injury may be a lot more dire than most people want to believe.

According to the Web site ProTrade.com, Burriss and his injury was mentioned by commentators during the Giants-Marlins game on July 8.

Apparently, the injury he suffered in Fresno, a fractured fifth metatarsal in his left foot, was worse than the organization initially thought, and he might need a pin to fix it.

With such a procedure happening, Burriss could be out until September or possibly the entire year.

This is a huge detriment to San Francisco's playoff hopes, because in all honesty, the Giants need Burriss in their push for the playoffs.

Burriss has struggled at the plate, and his disappointing performance with the bat is illustrated by his .238 batting average, .292 OBP, and 34 strikeouts in 61 games (last season, in 54 more plate appearances, he only struck out 24 times).

Yet while Burriss doesn't offer much hitting-wise, the Giants don't need him because of his bat.

Rather, what the Giants do need from Burriss is his speed and his glove.

Because those are two aspects of the Giants' game that are very suspect.

Currently, Burriss is the stolen base leader on the Giants team with 11. This is mind-blowing considering that Burriss was demoted to Fresno on June 17, and he is still three stolen bases ahead of Randy Winn, who is second on the team in stolen bases with eight.

The fact of the matter is the Giants simply don't have any base-stealing speed on this team.

Winn is a decent speed threat, but he isn't as aggressive as he used to be. In addition, for most of the year, he had a role in the lineup where he was depended more on driving in runs rather than scoring runs.

However, with no base-stealing threat left on the team since Burriss' demotion, Winn has been reversing roles in this second half as evidenced by manager Bruce Bochy hitting him higher in the order.

Fred Lewis was thought to be a base-stealing threat back in Spring Training. However, whether it is the surgery on his foot from last year still affecting him, or his recent slump taking its toll, Lewis just doesn't have the speed he used to have on the basepaths.

Last season, Lewis stole 21 bases and was caught seven times. This year, he has only stolen five and has been caught four times.

The Giants cannot be a serious threat in October if they do not have a stolen-base threat on this team. Every team that has won or played in the World Series has had at least one guy that was competent on the basepaths.

Why is it so important? Because you need a way to advance runners without sacrificing outs.

The Giants, unfortunately, don't have that consistent option at this moment, and so they are forced to run a lot of risky hit-and-runs, or waste outs with sacrifice bunts.

If Burriss was healthy, he would change that mold.

Now, I'm not saying that Burriss should be an everyday starter again. On the contrary, I think he belongs on this team as a reserve, and the second base position should be Juan Uribe's for the rest of the season.

That being said, Burriss would have a similar role to what Dave Roberts held in Boston in 2004 in terms of base stealing.

He would come off the bench and pinch hit and pinch run when the game is on the line. And with his speed, the Giants hitters could feel more confident that Burriss would advance.

They wouldn't feel the pressure to hit big extra base hits, or, even worse, be forced to partake in hit-and-run plays where they wouldn't be able to put their best swing on the baseball.

Maybe it is not the role Burriss or the Giants envisioned in Spring Training, but he would be making a bigger impact on this team with that role in the second half than he did while starting at second in the beginning of the year.

Furthermore, he would be playing with a major league team that is in the middle of the playoff race. I imagine he would enjoy that a lot more than playing in the minor leagues, where the records and season are ultimately meaningless.

While his speed is the most coveted aspect of his play, Burriss' glove also is a part of his game that would be essential to this team.

Because let's face it, the Giants' defense is still a little suspect, especially in the infield.

Pablo Sandoval is still getting adjusted to third base and can make the occasional error now and then.

Edgar Renteria is having a solid defensive season, but nobody will be confusing him with our last everyday Giants shortstop, Omar Vizquel, anytime soon.

Uribe is a solid fit at second, but he is a natural shortstop, and you can tell he struggles with making adjustments at second base every now and then.

There aren't many problems on the other hand with Burriss' glove in comparison to those other three guys. While he can't compare perhaps hitting wise to those three, nobody can question that he may be the best fielder of that bunch.

Thus, not only would Burriss satisfy a Dave Robert circa 2004 role, but he would also satisfy a Pokey Reese circa 2004 role as well.

In 2004, when the Red Sox were in tight games during the playoff stretch, manager Terry Francona would substitute the slick-fielding Reese for the iron-hands second baseman Mark Bellhorn in the late innings.

Burriss could be utilized the same way, and with a great glove player in Burriss behind him in the ninth in a tight game, closer Brian Wilson would undoubtedly be more confident on the mound knowing he is pitching with the best possible defense backing him up.

There is no doubt in my mind Burriss would have an important place on this team as the Giants fight for the Wild Card spot and perhaps the NL West crown. In some ways, I was disappointed that he was demoted while other players like Rich Aurilia and Lewis still were kept on the roster.

What Burriss could bring to this team as a bench player not only outweighs both players on an individual basis, but both of them combined.

Burriss is essentially a player who fills two roles coming off the bench. How many reserves on this roster could satisfy one role, let alone two?

Unfortunately though, for Giants fans, this is all "could have been."

With Burriss out with his foot injury for a while, and perhaps the year, Burriss fulfilling that role this season is as likely as Daisy of Love on VH1 coming back for a second season.

Even if Burriss somehow makes it back in time for a September stretch run, it is almost guaranteed that we won't be graced with the same player we saw in May.

Foot injuries like his don't exactly make it easy on the base paths, even for speedsters like Burriss.

It's such a shame. This could have been a great story. The Giants would have had a deadly option off the bench, and Burriss could have salvaged his season, not to mention solidified a reputation of being the kind of team guy that Roberts is infamous for back in New England.

The injury bug always hits when you need it the least.


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