The All-Star break, which ends when games start today, is a time for the players to give back to the fans (or some such nonsense). It's also a time for baseball writers to fill inches with reflections on the half-season in the books, and with hopes and dreams, if not predictions, for the half-season that arrives in Oakland Thursday night. The first half ended on a high note for the A's, who swept a three-game series against the White Sox and ran their record over .500. And here's the thing about the streak that brought the A's from 17-32 on May 29 to 44-43 on: It coincided, more or less, with Rich Harden's, Nick Swisher's and Bobby Crosby's returns from the disabled list, and the team's being able to field its ideal lineup. In other words, we have reason to believe that the A's are, when healthy, this good.

As we check on the home team's progress, A's Brand Baseball will not be giving out "midseason grades." Assigning grades is part of what we "do" for a "living"; it is by a wide margin our least favorite part of our "job," and we are reasonably confident
that we speak for most of the teachers we know. We don't understand what pleasure other writers find in the conceit behind giving Marco Scutaro a B and Mark Ellis a B- (or something). It's arbitrary, it's not particularly descriptive, it's stupid--kinda like your grades were in school. We'd rather step back, take a look at some of the A's and offer, well, narrative evaluations of their first-half performance.