The last time the Giants had no realistic championship designs was 2009 B.B. Before Buster. For fans, it was a time when fretting about wins and losses was out and assessing young players was in.
Same is true this season: Though mathematically alive, the Giants' playoff chances, realistically, are dead; and how one young player in particular first baseman Brandon Belt performs likely will reveal how much punch the team's batting order will have in 2014 and beyond.
Clearly, Belt is not Class of 2009 alums Fred Lewis or Travis Ishikawa, both of whom showed sparks of promise before fading away.
Belt muddled through 2012 with moderate distinction until heating up late, goosing team and fan expectations. So-so results interspersed with brief stretches of excellence made this season another of frustration with and for Belt, his inconsistency magnified by the team's decline.
But Belt's recent resurgence reportedly the result of team- encouraged changes to his swing seems to be more than another hot streak. Depending on preferred clichés, Belt has been mashing, raking, on fire, thumping and/or crushing it.
The Giants are encouraged, not quite giddy but much more than quietly pleased. Belt is hitting third or fourth in the lineup, providing power, patience and productivity.
Whether this is the step up to where potential becomes permanence will prove out over days, weeks and seasons. If so, it could be a key factor in the team's hoped-for resurgence in 2014.
What to watch
Baseball, Astros at A's, 7:05 p.m., CSNCA: Oakland plays last-place Houston with one eye on the scoreboard.
Will Brandon Belt ever be a consistent hitter for the Giants?
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What should the Giants do with jersey No. 22?
Officially retire it: 52%
Store it away for good: 7%
Keep handing it out: 41%
Total votes: 125
Call The Bee's Brian Blomster, (916) 326-5512. Follow him on Twitter @b_blomster.