In 2011, it seems that the San Francisco Giants have been snake bit.
They have been unable to sustain the wave of momentum and luck that helped carry them to the World Series Championship last season. Aubrey Huff has returned to the form that made 29 other teams pass on him. Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval have suffered injuries that have devastated the Giants lineup. Miguel Tejada has managed to compete for the title of "worst everyday position player in MLB," and youngster Brandon Belt has been unable to recreate the rookie year magic that Sandoval, Posey and Tim Lincecum found before him.
Darren Ford and his injured ankle is just another example of the disappearance of baseball magic from the Giants clubhouse.
Before his injury, Ford had been a spark, a catalyst for good things. He isn't the greatest hitter in the world, but when he plays, good things generally happen. And given the decimated nature of the Giants roster, he could be more important than ever when he returns.
This isn’t to say that Ford is the greatest thing since sliced bread, or that individually his skills can’t be replaced by other players. But Ford had shown himself to possess a package that has been rare in the Giants organization. Sure, the team could find another base stealer. They could find another utility outfielder. They might even be able to find another player who is unafraid in big moments, and is filled with possibly irrational confidence in his own abilities.
But Darren Ford combines all these traits into one neat, tidy package.
This season especially, Darren Ford brings to the table some of what the Giants desperately need. Here are five reasons he could be the team's biggest X factor for the rest of 2011.