Baseball is a harsh teacher. The game has a way of picking at a player's flaws and weaknesses until they're rubbed raw. Those who can adjust prosper. Those who can't often end up talking about the career that never quite took off.
Those who never played the game probably don't know how difficult this process really is. They see a guy like Pablo Sandoval or Tim Lincecum achieve early success and assume it'll always look easy.
But both of the young Giants stars are struggling right now. Lincecum is throwing too many pitches and while he's still good, he's not the kind of crazy-good that won him two straight Cy Young awards.
Sandoval is in the deepest down-phase of his young career. His batting average is down more than 50 points from last year. And he's hitting into double-plays at an alarming rate: in the first 787 plate appearances of his career, he grounded into 16 DP's. This year, in 314 plate appearances, he's hit into 17 (leading the free world in that category).
And then there are those two horrible base running gaffes in consecutive games against the Dodgers, the last of which had some fans booing The Panda as he left the field.
It's clear that Sandoval, still just 23 years old, is pressing. Hard. It's tempting to let him keep playing. But it's clearly time for the Giants to give him a break. It's not punishment; it would be an act of mercy to pull him out of the fray for a couple of days.
Let's hope Sandoval and Lincecum will adjust and bounce back. Both are serious about their craft, but baseball is a hard taskmaster and offers no place to hide.