Brandon Belt is resuming baseball activities. Throw open those curtains and let the sun in. This is good news.
Of course, that doesn't mean that he's guaranteed to make it back before the season ends. Belt's been cleared to resume baseball activities before, but the symptoms of the concussion kept reappearing. Still, the slow march toward activation is better than the myriad of alternatives. From Alex Pavlovic:
First baseman Brandon Belt is "doing well," manager Bruce Bochy said, and Belt will begin baseball work sometime this week. The hope all along was that he would be cleared to resume baseball activities next week, and he remains on track after three weeks of rehab for vision problems related to a concussion.
As noted several times before, with both Belt and Hector Sanchez, the most important thing is for the human beings to resume their normal, pre-concussion lives. This trumps whatever game-winning hit either player might have in a September Dodgers series. Get healthy first, worry about baseball second. That should always be the modus operandi if you don't want to be a ghoul.
However, with the positive news on Belt, I don't think it's ghoulish at all to think about him in a lineup and sigh, deeply and yearningly. Since Belt's injury, a few things happened:
- Joe Panik became trustworthy in that untrustworthy, yet secretly exciting, rookie way
- Michael Morse started to hit a little bit again
- Angel Pagan returned
- Gregor Blanco snapped his streak of misery and got exceptionally hot
When Belt left, Blanco was an everyday center fielder who was Candlestick cold. Morse was a hard-swinging derelict who couldn't field. Dan Uggla had been an ex-Giant for exactly one day, and there wasn't an obvious replacement yet. Everything was in shambles. Now look at this potential lineup, knowing what you know now (or what you think you know now, at least).
- Angel Pagan - CF
- Joe Panik - 2B
- Buster Posey - C
- Pablo Sandoval - 3B
- Hunter Pence - RF
- Brandon Belt - 1B
- Michael Morse - LF
- Brandon Crawford - SS
That's a ... why, that's a mighty decent lineup. Assuming that Panik isn't really a .250/.310/.330 hitter in Sctutaro's clothing, that Belt is actually healthy and ready to contribute, and that Morse is healthy. Those are a lot of assumptions, but if they're all valid, look at that normal lineup. Looooook. Before we realized that Scutaro was irreparably damaged, this is the lineup we were hoping for in the offseason. There's a guy with power hitting seventh. Seventh! On July 3, Tyler Colvin was hitting fifth, with Adam Duvall behind him.
If Belt needs more time, well, that's bad news on a personal level, and the dream of a normal, healthy lineup should be suspended in favor of a dream of a normal, healthy person. But if he can come back and help, look at that normal, healthy lineup.
It seems obvious to write "good player makes team better", and I'm a little self-conscious about just how obvious. For whatever reason, though, when players disappear from the roster, I almost forget about them entirely. This wasn't an issue of 2011, of course, and there's something about the Angel Pagan magic talisman of oxymoronity and wins that's hard to ignore, Usually, though, I look at things like Tyler Colvin hitting fifth and Joaquin Arias playing first and grumble about them that very second, without remembering exactly why those players are in the lineup in the first place. I rarely step back and remember what the lineup is supposed to look like, and how spiffy it would be to have it back.
If you're like me, you're all excited at this reminder that Belt might play again this year, and you're excited about your temporary suspension of tunnel vision.
If you're not like me, you're at the penultimate paragraph and wondering what you just read. Sorry about that. You deep thinkers really aren't my target audience, you know.
Regardless, Belt is resuming baseball activities and could be back before the end of the season. That's reason for optimism on a couple levels, but don't forget about the part where he makes the team better. Don't forget that underrated part.