We've been in playoff position or even first place for three straight seasons, and all three times failed to actually get better at the deadline - and actively swooned in September. So I'd take it. Hanging around at the edge of .500, a few games out - right now we're only 1/2 behind the Mets - seems fine to me. And maybe Howard will help the pitching. Kingery? Who knows.
The bullpen lacks margin for error but the key to its depth is still Brogdon, Coonrod and perhaps even Romero improving. Bradley coming back is certainly important, but we have to assume there'll be other injuries along the way.
The test is going to be Dombrowski. If first place is in reach, will he exceed the CBT? Will he make a good short-term trade at long-term cost? Even so I don't think anyone is pencilling us into the WS, but we also know how that goes.
Or, alternately, will things go really badly - a major injury, Bohm continues to slump, Didi is as cooked as Cutch - and we're sellers? Lots to sell, but still a ton of questions marks for 2022.