It's all over San Francisco, and it's not pretty: Buster Posey is broken.
We're not exactly sure how broken, but it's bad enough for us Giants fans to look back at those times only days ago where he was "only" taking foul balls off the face. The only news we're getting out of the Giants is pretty much: "Well, we're pretty sure we don't have to amputate." That's bad.
Andrew Baggarly said yesterday that the mood in the clubhouse was "funereal" after a game in which the Giants staged one of their biggest late-inning comebacks in recent memory, had a huge breakthrough hit from Aubrey Huff and then promptly lost both their first one-run game at home this season and their undisputed clubhouse captain in Posey.
In the past couple days, the Giants have gone from high-flying, first-place owning, nine-in-a-row at home winning, unstoppable in close games, sweeping the A's and everyone else who dared to venture into the ballpark at Third and King, to losing their leader (Posey, lower body injury), their Bullet (Darren Ford, ankle) and their littlest Giant (Mike Fontenot, hamstring) in the span of three days.
And then comes the news over the wire today: the Giants are bringing back Brandon Belt.
Why, you might ask? From a baseball perspective, it doesn't exactly make sense.
With Posey, Ford, Fontenot, Mark DeRosa and Pablo Sandoval out, it looks like the Giants need more than a first baseman/outfielder. Can Brandon Belt play shortstop? If so, great move. Alas, #lefthanded.
**UPDATE: Catcher Chris Stewart and shortstop Brandon Crawford are also being called up. Assuming Fontenot, Ford and Posey all going to DL.**
And then there's the Aubrey Huff question. With Belt back in the majors, where does Huff go? The outfield as of late has been playing well. Cody Ross, Andres Torres and Nate Schierholtz make a great starting lineup out there. Pat Burrell is adjusting well to playing off the bench. Aaron Rowand is still on the team somewhere.
We also know that, if Belt was going to be brought up, it wasn't going to be to pinch-hit. Earlier this year, Belt was here to start. That's that. No more rookie experience, learning from the bench. If Belt's on the team, he's playing every day.
That means he's playing first base. Yes, Belt did play 26 games in the outfield, but again, the outfielders for the Giants are producing a lot of the offense lately.
And hopefully, this time around we'll see more of this, and less of this. Belt has made adjustments. He stopped showing the pitcher his numbers, which gave him more coverage on the inner half that major league pitchers were exploiting.
But to lose Posey is more than just a baseball blow to the Giants. They lost one of their franchise players, the reigning Rookie of the Year, the master of the pitching staff, a clubhouse leader AND their cleanup hitter. In one play.
Taking out Darren Ford is a huge emotional hit as well. Speed is exciting. That's how the Giants won that game against the A's/Padres/anyone who tried to get Darren Ford out. Losing Fontenot, who kept this team afloat as the only 5'8 third-place hitter in all of baseball history, is also big. Not only is that a utility spot gone, but that little scrapper and his flowing locks are popular in the dugout.
That's why Belt is coming back. No, Belt is not going to be an emotional leader in the clubhouse. But if you think that his return doesn't inspire players like Huff and Burrell to step up like they did last year, you're dead wrong.
With Posey gone, this is Aubrey Huff's clubhouse again. With Posey gone, Aubrey Huff has to start pounding out hits because his team needs it. With Posey gone, Aubrey Huff is going to be the leader of this team, or they're going to flounder for the rest of the season.
Belt, and now Crawford as we've learned, is going to be instrumental to the Giants success in 2011. We knew it when he made the team on Opening Day, and we know it here on May 26. Again, he won't be the leader of this team.
He'll be expected to produce. He'll be expected to drive in runs. He'll be expected to be a rookie who makes people forget about the first month of the season by being an amazing complement to the veterans like Huff and Burrell.
And more importantly, he'll inject some energy into a dejected Giants team.
The Giants are already dealing with life without Pablo Sandoval, whose return from injury looms even more important than ever. They dealt with the losses of catalysts Andres Torres and Cody Ross earlier this year. They didn't have Brian Wilson for the first week or so of the season. And remember Barry Zito?
We've seen that team chemistry plays a huge part in baseball, and last year's Giants team had fantastic chemistry. They exemplify the "whole is greater than the sum of its parts" idiom. Look at the stats, and no one really pops out. But they're in first place.
Brandon Belt? I hope you're listening. You've got some big shoes to fill. But as you know, if any team can figure out how to do it, it's our boys, the San Francisco Giants.
**Remember to catch this and much more Giants news at Archway Number Nine.**