The San Francisco Giants are finishing up a disappointing season marred by major injuries and an inept offense. The Giants entered 2011 in a fantastic position to attempt to defend their World Series title into October. They were returning their vaunted pitching staff and would have a full season of the reigning Rookie of the Year and a slimmed-down, determined Pablo Sandoval.
To say that the season didn't quite go as planned would be an understatement. With the injuries to Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez, the Giants struggled to field a consistent lineup and the holes in the lineup left by those two were glaringly obvious in August.
The season is not over. The Giants stand at seven games behind Arizona and six behind Atlanta in the wild-card race. Stranger things have happened in baseball, but at this point it is a long shot that they can take over either team.
Here are five things that the Giants can still accomplish in September.
This wouldn't necessarily be an "accomplishment" for the Giants but it would be a very good story. Marc Kroon is 38-year-old relief pitcher who has bounced around every single level of baseball in his career since 1995 and hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2004.
He spent several seasons pitching in Japan and spent this entire season pitching for the Fresno Grizzlies. His AAA stats this year have most likely convinced him to retire as he posted a 5.11 ERA in 49.1 innings pitched, striking out more than one batter per inning. When the Giants made their final roster moves, adding several players to the roster as September began, Kroon really hadn't given the Giants a reason to use a 40-man roster spot on him.
Kroon is widely respected throughout baseball and his humble demeanor and professionalism makes him a true role model. Jeremy Affeldt recently cut his non-pitching hand separating frozen burger patties and is on the disabled list and will not pitch again this year. The Giants could move him to the 60-man DL, opening up a 40-man roster spot and add Kroon to the team as a reward for a long, difficult but hard-fought career.
If Brian Wilson is not seriously injured and cannot further injure himself by pitching this year, the Giants can benefit from getting him back on the mound in September.
The Giants closer is a special breed to say the least. The Giants simply do not have the same swagger without the threat of him closing out games. If Arizona or Atlanta and St. Louis stumble and the Giants continue to win, things could get very interesting very fast and having Wilson in the bullpen for the end of games could be a difference-maker.
If the Giants do fade away, the 2012 version of the Giants could benefit from Wilson returning this year. It could give him a positive ending to what was, as a team, a disappointing season and propel him into 2012 as determined as ever and confident in his arm.
It may seem completely insignificant to the team on the field and for 2011 it would be, but if Buster Posey can get to the point this month where he can catch some bullpen sessions it would be a huge morale boost for him and would remind Giants fans that there is a pretty good, young catcher who should be ready for spring training 2012.
Posey was injured so long ago and the team has had so many struggles all year offensively that at times it's easy to forget that he even exists. His injury was so severe that he hasn't even been with the team for most of the season.
Posey recently reported to Phoenix where he will start to ramp up his rehab including throwing, hitting and catching. Posey also needs to get his legs back in playing shape as a catastrophic leg injury like his will cause moderate to severe muscle and strength loss in the affected leg.
For Posey, I'm sure it would be a huge psychological boost to put on all of the gear, trot down to the bullpen and catch a few pitches during a game on the final home stand of the year. If he is healthy enough to, I hope he has that opportunity.
Brandon Crawford should be playing every day at this point in the season
The Giants will be going into the offseason with questions about first base, shortstop, every outfield position and the fifth starter spot.
The Giants have internal candidates who may be able to take these positions but are unproven. The Giants front office will want to see a prolonged sample from some key rookies so they have a good idea of what their options are as retooling starts in November.
The team should give as much playing time as possible to Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Brett Pill, Hector Sanchez, Justin Christian, Darren Ford and Emmanuel Burriss. If any of these guys show that they may be ready to produce, even at an average level in San Francisco in 2012 they will give the front office many options for improving the offense between the end of this season and February 2012.
The Giants can only hope for meaningful games in Arizona in the final weekend of the year.
I know it is a significant long shot, but it isn't impossible. The Giants play six games against Colorado and Los Angeles before they meet Arizona for the final time in Arizona next weekend.
After Thursday night's victory over Colorado, San Francisco stands at seven games behind the Diamondbacks who play six games against San Diego and Pittsburgh. Like I said, it's not probable, but it is possible.
Indulge me for a moment: If Arizona falters and finishes those six games winning two and losing four and the Giants win five of their six, they will arrive in Arizona next Thursday night four games behind Arizona with an opportunity to control their own destiny again if they could sweep Arizona.
If nothing else, it would make for great baseball in the final weekend of the season for the second year in a row. They need a lot of help and to play solid baseball for that to happen, but it is certainly something to watch for over the final 12 games of the year.