For all of the grief that Giants fans give to general manager Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy, there is one factor that has dictated the decision-making of those two more than anything else: the disabled list.
Before you start getting into ripping San Francisco upper management for paying big money for damaged merchandise, stop for a second and think.
Professional athletes probably get the most advanced medical treatment in the country, if not the world. New, experimental treatments are tried all the time on sports superstars. Just ask footballers Hines Ward (plasma-rich platelet therapy in the knee) or Kevin Everett (drastic lowering of body temperature to perform spinal surgery).
Yet even with all of the groundbreaking surgeries and treatments, these athletes are still human, and they still need to recover. Fans never seem to understand the impact of an injury on an athlete's ability to do his job. Remember, their job involves being in peak physical condition for a whole season while enduring bumps and bruises from other people in peak physical condition.
Right now, the Giants seem to be scrambling to fill roster spots and spontaneously sending players on rehab assignments. This is because injuries cannot be prevented, and only in certain situations can be neutralized.
This year, even the offseason signings were dictated by roster health.
Justin Miller was left unsigned because of a late-season elbow injury, despite an ERA under 2.00 for most of the season. Randy Johnson pretty much ended his year (and career) with a torn rotator cuff last July.
It also pushed away Nick Johnson, who is up in the air for the rest of this season because of a wrist injury.
Juan Uribe was re-signed for the most part to be the starting second baseman UNTIL Freddy Sanchez returned, when Uribe would subsequently become a super-utility player.
At the end of the offseason, it looked like the San Francisco roster was pretty much set, even with the shoulder surgery for Sanchez.
But now we're 43 games into 2010, and there are injuries still throwing wrenches into the gears of the Giants offense. And its not exactly what was expected.
Aaron Rowand tore up pitching in Spring Training, started to streak a little bit, and subsequently got nailed in the face by a Vicente Padilla fastball. Cue the insertion of Andres Torres into the lineup and his meteoric rise to starter-dom.
Juan Uribe began the year filling in for Sanchez, like expected, but then Edgar Renteria went down with a groin injury. Enter second-baseman Matt Downs, who came out of the gate with a nice swing and played a big role in the Giants first win over San Diego a couple days ago.
This gets further complicated with Juan Uribe leaving the game early last night, but should be offset with the announcement that Renteria is coming back off the DL today.
Most importantly, starting left-fielder Mark DeRosa is clearly not recovered from his wrist surgery. We've heard all about it, from DeRosa describing the tendons flapping around to Jayson Werth's seemingly preposterous four-year recovery time.
On the positive side, DeRosa's absence has once again opened up a spot for Andres Torres to get regular playing time. With Nate Schierholtz also banged up, John Bowker is also seeing innings in the field and producing.
DeRosa finally went on the DL this week after underwhelmingly occupying the fifth spot in the order all year. It can only be assumed now that he will require surgery at some point, and that he will also be missing significant time this year after signing a two-year, $12 million deal.
The other two-year, $12 million deal that people are talking about is that of Freddy Sanchez. Many fans are ready to call him a bust, and a waste of a top prospect in Tim Alderson, but I'd like to look at another side of this.
First of all, Giants fans have seen the most limited of sample sizes when it comes to his gameplay. And last year, even though he only appeared in 25 games, he still hit .293 and made the All-Star Game.
This year, he actually came back off the DL weeks ahead of schedule, and in two games has seemed to jump right back into the big league swing of things, going 2-for-3 last night against the Athletics.
Sanchez plays a stellar second base, and with DeRosa out of the lineup, he fills the role of a smart, patient hitter that Hensley Muelens and the Giants have been so wanting for this season.
(And, once-top prospect Tim Alderson is 2-2 in AA Altoona, sporting a 6.08 ERA in 40 IP.)
Clearly, injuries on a team are inevitable. But just as DeRosa's surgery may not have worked, it looks like Freddy Sanchez is on the right track.
How you replace them is instrumental. But for each Andres Torres run batted in, there has been a costly Eugenio Velez misstep.
If, and only if, the Giants can get healthy all at once, a la Sanchez, this lineup will be more solid up and down than it has been all year. If you've constantly got one of your Opening Day starters on the disabled list, as it has been with San Francisco, then your team is NOT the one that it was built to be at the outset.
It's time for the Giants to stop having to rely on replacements, and instead for the starters to get back in the game and get back to doing what they do. But please, make sure you're healthy enough before you come back in the game, because everyone is tired of players "aggravating" an injury that you're trying to come back from.
With a piecemeal lineup, the Giants have been playing consistent second-place ball. They have won a lot of series, taking two out of three from some of the best teams in the country.
But a series win over the Cardinals means nothing if they keep getting swept by the Padres. Luckily no one has really taken hold in the NL West, and San Francisco has been hanging around.
Once the lineup solidifies, the Giants should be able to go on a run and make some noise. Let's hope that day comes sooner than later.