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Seven Things I'd Love To See In The Second Half

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Listed in no particular order, and trying to remain as realistic as I can:

(1) Jarrod Washburn gets traded. I don't care what we'd get back. I wouldn't expect anyone to give us much of anything. That's fine. All I'm looking for is sweet sweet commitment relief. Washburn is a mediocre pitcher getting paid like a good one through the end of next season, and removing him from the rotation would allow us to fill his slot with someone far cheaper but equally effective, freeing up money for a bigger splash. Rule of thumb: never let yourself get into a situation in which you're paying a lot for something you could get elsewhere for a fraction of the cost. Should you find yourself in one of these situations, it is imperative that you work tirelessly to get out of it.

(2) Felix gets his groundball groove back. Between 2005-2007, Felix posted a GB% of 61%. So far in 2008, it's dipped to 51%. That's bad, because the extreme groundball tendencies were a big part of the skillset that made Felix such an awesome prospect. The good news is that he's been up at 62% over his last five starts, but small samples mean very little, so all we can do is hope that this trend continues over the final 2.5 months. A Felix with tons of groundballs is a guy I want to watch for the rest of my life. A Felix with fewer groundballs is more vulnerable. And I don't like the idea of a vulnerable Felix.

(3) JJ comes back with a vengeance. Aside from just being awesome to watch, a healthy, effective JJ Putz gives this team a lot more flexibility going forward. It allows them to either (A) kick off the Morrow --> starter transition, or (B) leave Morrow as the closer and ship JJ off for something shiny. And both of those would have the potential to provide a substantial return. Honestly, this team misses JJ in the worst way.

(4) Jeff Clement heats up. So far, Jeff's been swinging at too much garbage and - not surprisingly - missing a lot of it. This isn't a huge problem, because you can generally expect even the most talented prospects to go over their share of bumpy roads early on, but considering how much Clement means to this organization in both the medium- and long-term pictures, it'd be nice of him to start putting things together. Especially if this team intends to compete in 2009. Jeff, we've seen your rough adjustment. Time to put that behind you and become the hitter we all know you're capable of becoming.

(5) Jeremy Reed heats up. I can talk about starting Reed in center next year all I want, but it isn't going to happen as long as he's a pile of crap at the plate. Nor should it. The idea's always been that Reed's a capable fielder who's entering his physical peak, so in theory he should be able to translate enough of his AAA slash line to the Majors to get by. However, it's high time we stop talking and he starts doing, because if he remains an easy out, the organization will want to find somebody better, and quality CFs are tough to track down. .270/.330/.400, Jeremy. It's all I ask. Make believe every stadium's in southern California and start hitting the ball with a little more authority. God knows you may never get another chance. Seize this one.

(6) One or both of RA Dickey and RRS becomes an effective #5 starter. Assuming Morrow won't be seeing the ML rotation any time in the immediate future, these are our two big in-house candidates to start next year for dirt cheap. And in case you're not familiar with how valuable it is to have a decent starter who barely makes any money, allow me to be the first to tell you: it's really valuable. Especially given how this organization has historically thrown money around to plug holes in the rotation. Establishing Dickey, RRS, or even both of them as reasonable back-end starters would do more good for this team than I'd be able to explain in one of these little paragraphs. So, root for it. The more answers we get to questions about the future, the easier it'll be for the new front office to build a good team.

(7) Felix signs a long-term extension. Felix is open to re-signing with this team. He's always been open to it. I don't know why, mind you, but I'm not making this up. Bavasi just passed him lowball after lowball until negotiations eventually came to an unspoken halt. And that's a pretty God damn stupid thing to let happen when you're a GM with a reputation for locking up young talent to long contracts. Of all people, how is Felix the one that Bavasi missed? Anyway, Bavasi's gone, so hopefully Pelekoudas and/or whoever succeeds him is more willing to give Felix what he's worth over the next four or five years. Because not only is Felix the most exciting player on the team; he's also one of the best young pitchers in baseball, and allowing him to enter free agency after 2011 would deal a blow so severe that I honestly don't know if I could recover. Give the man what he wants. For God's sake, YOU SPENT FORTY-EIGHT MOTHERFUCKING MILLION DOLLARS ON CARLOS SILVA. Playing hardball with Felix after having willingly bent over for countless inferior talents in the past would arguably be the biggest blunder in the history of the organization, and precisely the sort of thing that would jeopardize my attachment to the team. Don't let it go that far. Freaking pay the man already. You'll be happy you did.