Every season has unexpected challenges -- injuries and slumps, players in decline, players getting better, happy players and angry players, people moving out and people moving in.
Good teams handle the bumps in the road and move on. They can overcome plenty. For instance, the Yankees.
They never thought they'd be beginning the stretch run without Mariano Rivera, Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Brett Gardner.
Yet the Yankees have a calmness about them. They play the same way no matter what. They believe that if every player does his part, they're still good enough to win.
This is the legacy of Derek Jeter. Great player, bad quote. He tells us twice a day that it's important to play hard and not give up. That's a cliche. It's also a mantra. The Yankees don't sweat the small stuff. They play that day's game and don't worry about what happened yesterday or what could happen tomorrow.
No matter who they don't have, their challenge is to win a single game. On any given Tuesday ...
It's truly a marathon.
So, the San Francisco Giants suffered a devastating loss with Wednesday's announcement that outfielder Melky Cabrera had been suspended for 50 games for testing positive for the banned substance testosterone.
He'd been one of baseball's most consistent offensive players, with a .346 batting average and a serious shot at winning the National League's Most Valuable Player Award. He'd been a consistent offensive weapon in a lineup that didn't have nearly enough of them.
Now, Giants manager Bruce Bochy looks at his lineup card and sees a huge hole. His hope had been that Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Hunter Pence and Cabrera would give him a middle of the order as good as almost anyone's.
Even the best pitchers are going to make a mistake when a team can stack that many good hitters in a row. Besides that, those guys are going to be on base so often that the hitters in front of them and behind them may get more pitches to hit.
Now, the Giants are a bit easier to pitch to because opposing hurlers have one fewer dangerous guy to face.
Bochy's issue is two-fold. First, he must move his team past the initial shock of losing Cabrera.
There'll be endless questions from reporters about how badly the Giants are hurt, and if they can still get the playoffs without Cabrera. When the press is ordered out of the clubhouse after today's game, there'll be a collective deep sigh after the swirl of negative questions.
Bochy's challenge is to get the Giants past that, to get them to believe they've still got enough to win.
This first game is important. To beat the National League's best team on the first day after Cabrera's suspension would be huge.
And they do have enough to finish the deal.
They Giants still have a really good rotation and a solid bullpen. They still have Posey, Pence and Sandoval.
Brandon Belt has been hot, and Posey is hitting .441 since the All-Star break.
There's also some history. The Giants won the World Series two years ago, and Cabrera wasn't part of that team.
If Posey stays hot and if Tim Lincecum pitches well, the Giants are good enough to swap punches with the Dodgers and D-backs down the stretch.
But the Giants are diminished now by an act that was silly and selfish, by a player who thought he could get away with it.
He hurt himself and he hurt his team. The Giants may still have enough to finish the deal, but it's a lot more of a challenge.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.