Stop me if you've heard this before: Cameron Maybin is less than fully operable ... again. Oh, wait, you have. That's because if you're keeping score, between the majors and minors this will be the 10th multi-week chunk of time that Maybin has spent on the shelf during his career. He has lost time to injuries to both knees, his right wrist, his left shoulder, and now this latest injury, to his left bicep, which may or may not need surgery.
OK, I lied, I won't stop. The thing is, for the Padres, this isn't alien to them. Everyone recognized when they acquired Carlos Quentin that they might finally have the righty boom stick their lineup could really use. But Quentin has eight multi-week stints on the DL over his full career, and I wouldn't bet against that number getting to 10 this year. If acquiring fragile outfielders was a market inefficiency, the Padres have exploited it to maximum disadvantage. And not just outfielders: Jedd Gyorko, Chase Headley, Yonder Alonso, Everth Cabrera -- the entire starting infield -- all spent time on the DL last year. Catcher Yasmani Grandal? He's already hurt. Of course this team signed Josh Johnson. Of course they did.
It's the difference between looking at the Padres on paper and saying, yeah, I can see how that might work out, if they're healthy ... and then you realize that you're just about done with that train of thought, because they won't be. When have they ever been? And yet Padres manager Bud Black will patch together his lineup cards, lean heavily on the reliably adaptable, reliably underappreciated Will Venable, platoon heavily with bit players like Chris Denorfia, eke out four or five more wins than you'd expect. We'll admire them for what they did, and wonder what might have been if only the Padres were ever healthy.
It certainly wasn't supposed to work out this way for Maybin, not when he was a top-shelf prospect coming up through the Tigers' farm system after being the 10th overall pick of the 2005 draft, and not when he was the key part of a package of prospects sent to the Marlins for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis in December 2007. It wasn't supposed to be this way after he was rescued from the dysfunctional Marlins and signed a five-year, $25 million deal after a 2011 breakout. He was supposed to exemplify how a smaller-revenue club could keep blue-chip talents.
The easy, optimistic thing to say about Maybin at this point is that he could be somebody who will turn out better in his 30s than he was in his 20s. Say, a center-field variation on a Jayson Werth-like theme. Health and perhaps a future escape from Petco Park would certainly help to make that so. It's easy to pick out the pieces of his career that keep you hopeful: his .806 OPS on the road in 2011, or his second half in 2012 (.283 AVG/.333 OBP/402 SLG).
But you can go only so far on that kind of cherry-picking, in the same way that you can go only so far enjoying watching him gracefully cover the gaps in center, or flash the blazing speed that makes you think he could swipe 40 bases again, or rip a dozen triples. You see the gifts, and you want to see more. But that's Maybin's problem in a nutshell: We just don't get to see him very often, a reminder that health is a skill, and it's one of the very few he doesn't have.
Christina Kahrl writes about MLB for ESPN. You can follow her on Twitter.