The San Francisco Giants entered last weekend two games ahead of All-Star host Arizona for first place in their division. They had the third-best record in the National League and the fifth-best record in all of baseball.
One reason they have that position is character. From their zany closer's community work to their resolve to overcome adversity (see link on Sports Haze, for whom this piece was originally written), they are have shown their meddle.
The Giants hosted the New York Mets for a three-game series. But there was more at stake than holding on to their division lead.
There is a widening gap between the Mets and the two best teams ahead of them in their division. They are also experiencing financial problems, making them likely trade deadline sellers.
Meanwhile, the Giants are obviously playing well enough to make the playoffs. But because of an inordinate number of injuries, they are in need of another bat in their lineup if they want to even make it back to the World Series.
A sweep would have almost guaranteed the Mets would dump players. The Giants lost the first game, but came back to take the series and drop New York 11 games back of the division lead and 8.5 back of the wild card chase.
Expect them to trade away talent for prospects. And they have two players rumoured to be on the trading block.
The first, Jose Reyes, has been a subject of speculation all season long. He is a fantastic hitter for average with good speed who could fill in holes the Giants have in the middle infield and be an effective lead-off hitter.
Andres Torres is not hitting well enough and is caught stealing too often. By adding Reyes, Torres could move down to second and the Giants would truly have six hitters for pitchers to worry about.
But Reyes has a hamstring injury and will not be able to be traded until late in the month. He also may not re-sign with the Giants when he becomes a free agent next season.
That brings us to Carlos Beltran.
He plays an outfield position that is deep on the Giants. They have a platoon of Torres, Cody Ross, Pat Burrell and Aaron Rowand playing beside Nate Schierholtz. But none in the platoon is is performing well enough to be in the every day lineup anyway, and they could even be made part of the trade.
As a true power-hitter, Beltran fits in the Giants lineup. He would give the team a potent middle of the lineup with Pablo Sandoval and Aubrey Huff on either side of him.
And Beltran is available right away. More importantly, he is traveling with the Giants from San Francisco to the All Star Game, giving them an opportunity to feel what kind of a fit he is for the short and long term with the team.
That makes these past four days (Friday to Monday) some of the most important to the Giants ability to defend their title.