Nick Markakis is the player we have got to get behind and root for. He is the key to the future of the Baltimore Orioles being any good. Without him, I have no faith.
Erik Bedard is phenomenal, yes. But he's 28. Brian Roberts is one of the best second sackers in the game, I agree. But he's 30 in a couple of weeks. Nick Markakis is a productive major league right fielder and will turn 24 in November.
This is a guy with two good major league seasons under his belt. He picked up in a big way at the end of his rookie year, and in many (maybe most) seasons, would have won the Rookie of the Year award. In his second year, what more could you ask for out of a 23-year old? Furthermore, a 23-year old who was asked, in many ways, to anchor a lineup?
He's hitting a little under .300, with a near-.360 OBP. He's learning to steal bases, using his natural athleticism and baseball instincts more than his actual speed, which is more encouraging than a guy like Corey Patterson's flat-out wheels leading to 40 bags taken. 40 doubles, which should be pretty consistent. 20 homers, which could very easily turn into an annual 30. 100 RBI -- a dependent stat, yes, but who argues with 100 RBI? Not me. Especially in a lineup this weak.
He sees pitches, and that should only improve as he gets older and gains experience. He's a good outfielder defensively, far better than the mess Jay Gibbons made in right field before Nicky usurped him. And, really? I think he could handle center field just fine. He wouldn't be Andruw Jones or anything, but we'd survive just fine, if we got a bat in the corners. Wishful thinking, maybe.
I look at Nick Markakis and I sincerely see the guy upon whom you build this franchise. He might not turn into a yearly MVP candidate, but he should be very good, for a very long time. This is the first successful position prospect we've had in years. He deserves all the praise in the world. He deserves the hope. He deserves it all. He's a hell of a ballplayer.
It's a lost season. In a perfect world, we get in the way of the Yankees, but realistically, we just roll over for them like usual. But maybe, in the future, Nick Markakis-anchored O's teams actually have something more than "nuisance" to play for in September.
This is my guy. Along with Bedard, he's the guy that really keeps me wearing the O's cap. (I'm lying, I'd wear it anyway, but at least with those two I can have a defense for just why I have the gall to wear it.)
Obviously, he'll need help. Get it. Develop it. Find it cheap. If we can't spend the money (or if we just won't), then figure out some way to make this team competitive. It's not an impossible task. Difficult, maybe, but not totally out of this world.
Go Nick. Go O's. Sure, I'm already looking at next season and beyond, but Markakis ABs keep me interested. He's the chosen one.