Okay. Frankly, this season has been dog crap. You know it, I know it and there's no reason to dance around the matter. It's certainly not been smiles and sunshine, but be that as it may, if you squint through your rose colored glasses, there are some reasons for optimism in the second half.
Buck Showalter: Set to be appointed permanent manager any day now, the two time Manager of the Year will be the first credible helmsman in Birdland since the ill fated Mike Hargrove era. Maybe his well known brand of tough love is just the tonic for our struggling youngsters and lollygagging vets.
"Wheelin' Dealin'" Andy MacPhail: Now that Garrett Atkins has left the building, teeth have been gnashed and breasts beaten, we can chill out, sit back and watch Mr. MacPhail do what he arguably does best: fleece his (for still some unknown reason) unsuspecting colleagues. This is the man that turned Monsieur Erik into Dr. Jones, Chris Tillman, Josh Bell and others; convinced the Cubs to give up players for Steve Trachsel...I could go on.
Nick Markakis: Old reliable. Much attention has been devoted to Nick the Stick's lack of homers this year, but he IS leading the league in doubles and, at this point in the season, sporting the second highest OPS+ of his career. In the last two weeks before the All Star Break, a stretch in which his OPS was .990, he hit 3 homers and whacked 4 doubles. Anita Marks would be proud.
Ty Wigginton: Well, he's kinda stunk of late, but he's our lone All Star and traditionally, a much better 2nd half hitter.
Felix Pie: Between injuries and injury scares this year, Mr. Excitement has hit 2 doubles, 2 homers and a triple in 12 games. In four games since coming off the DL, he has not struck out and injected an additional spark into a lineup already showing signs of life.
Brian Roberts: 7 for 9 in three rehab starts. Yay!
The Role Players: Craig Tatum is a solid catch and throw guy that can get on base; Jake Fox doesn't like to walk, but seems to be a solid power option off the bench; Julio Lugo is a miserable human being, but is a decent defender and his bat is showing signs of life and Corey Patterson is playing like a man possessed. At any rate, these guys make me a little more hopeful than Jay Payton and Freddie Bynum.
The Cavalry: Matusz, Tillman and Arrieta have had their ups and downs this year, but Tillman's flirtation w/ the no-no, Arrieta's 5 quality starts and Matusz's team leading ERA allow one to think that maybe, just maybe everything will be alright.
Jason Berken: After showing his limitations as a starter last year, Berken has been nothing short of heroic out of the pen. He's lowered his BB/9, increased his K/9 and posted a studly 1.95 ERA to go w/ a 1.12 WHIP.
David Hernandez: We all knew it was coming, right? Well, David Hernandez has been pretty good in relief. He's walked 6 and struck out 23 while posting a 3-1 record and picking up a couple saves.
I'm withholding assessments of Adam Jones and Matt Wieters b/c while there have been recent signs of shaking off the cobwebs offensively, the Good Doctor looks lost in the field sometimes and his hacksploits at the plate are rumored to have caused even Miguel Tejada to shake his head in disbelief. Wieters has been very unlucky at the plate, though his K and BB rates have both improved this season.
Well, I'm really no more qualified than anyone to make these assessments, what do you think, fellow chatters?