fieldwithballmoon_copy_2zyhIf I may, I’d like to get up on my Bullpen Soapbox again. Last week, the Royals lost three straight to the Rays after taking leads into the eighth inning. In all three games, premier closer Joakim Soria was warming up but was never summoned. Why? Because it was the eighth inning, that’s why. Forget the matchups, it was the eighth inning. Manager Trey Hillman explained that he didn’t want to push Soria, who’s had Tommy John surgery, by asking him to get five outs. Fine. But if he can only get three, why do they have to be in the ninth? Why can’t he start the eighth? Why can’t he come into the middle of an inning? Why does no one else ask these questions? Tony LaRussa strikes again…It’s interesting that the ineptitude of the Mets, Marlins and Braves may be the reason behind Roy Halladay remaining in Toronto. Since the Phillies emerged as the front runner for Halladay’s services, they’ve opened up a huge lead over the aforementioned teams and may now feel that they don’t need Halladay… A word of caution to fantasy owners patting themselves on the back for selecting All Star hurler, Jason Marquis: He is 60-43 lifetime in the first half and 30-37 in the second half… Despite hammering the ball at every opportunity, Jake Fox may see his AB reduced because he is serving as the Cubs’ backup C. His three hits Sunday, including his 5th HR should be an indication to Chicago that they need to find another backup… Dodgers’ closer, Jonathan Broxton, will deal with a toe injury for the rest of the year. He missed a few games recently but will not go on the DL. Off season surgery is possible… Cardinals’ hurler Joel Pineiro, the latest to receive a career makeover from pitching coach Dave Duncan. He hasn’t walked a batter in over 33 IP and has his ERA below 3.00… Jeremy Guthrie gave the Orioles a strong 8 IP in his first start since July 7th. He had been suffering from a viral infection… The Red Sox, disappointed by their lack of production at the top of the lineup, will continue to shuffle J.D. Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia in the leadoff spot… Look for the A’s to run more over the course of the second half in order to create some offense. They could be a cheap source of SB… Have to give credit where it’s due. Despite terrible reviews in this column, (and peripheral stats to back them up), Detroit closer Fernando Rodney is 20-20 in S.

Buy Low- Felipe Lopez, traded this week from Arizona to Milwaukee, should become a fixture at the top of the Brewers’ lineup as they search for production from anyone not named Braun or Fielder… Yunel Escobar, despite a few trips to manger Bobby Cox’s doghouse, is leading the Braves in RBI… Royals’ hurler Luke Hochevar struck out nine on Sunday and seems to be completely over his rough start. Right now, he’s throwing better than Zach Greinke…

Sell High- In Cleveland, Kerry Wood’s 5.23 ERA is not the biggest problem faced by his owners. Wood has just 16 save opportunities to this point. Deal him to someone desperate for saves but not all that attentive to statistics… Red Sox OF Jason Bay is still leading the AL in RBI but has seen his BA drop to .254. He might bring a bunch of help in a trade… While still carrying a respectable .285 BA, Jorge Cantu has seen his power numbers fall…

Grab Bag- San Diego called up top pitching prospect, Mat Latos who gave up 2 R on 3 H over 4 IP in his debut. Latos was 8-1 over two Minor League levels with a miniscule 1.36 ERA… The Twins, looking for a little offense from the 2B position, signed Mark Grudzielanek, who might be a nice addition in an AL only format… There may not be a hotter hitter in the majors then Seattle OF Franklin Gutierrez. He’s a FA in many mixed leagues… With Frank Francisco on the DL, Texas will give most of its save opportunities to C.J. Wilson

Drop Zone- What does Dusty Baker have against Aaron Harang? He ruined him last year by using him in relief on a “throw day” and tossed him right back into the mud this year by bringing him back after a two hour rain delay; just to qualify for a win. Hope Harang enjoyed it as he hasn’t had one since. He’s 0-6, 5.08 in his last ten starts… In Florida, Andrew Miller, the Marlins’ prize in the Miguel Cabrera deal, just does not look ready for the big leagues… The Brewers sent Mat Gamel down to AAA to make room for Felipe Lopez… It’s time to get rid of Boston’s Nick Green in your AL only league as Jed Lowrie will get most of the time at SS now that he’s healthy…

Sick Bay- Reds’ C Ramon Hernandez finally succumbed to the pain in his knee and had arthroscopic surgery this week… Astros’ 1B/OF Lance Berkman has missed a number of recent games due to a strained calf… Joel Zumaya is out indefinitely with pain in his right shoulder… Kansas City’s Gil Meche remains on the DL with a bad back… The Twins’ Kevin Slowey, eligible to come off the DL, is still not ready… Tampa P Scott Kazmir is still experiencing cramping in his left forearm…

Farm Fresh- Perhaps establishing himself as the proverbial “4A” player, Ian Snell has dominated since being sent down to AAA by Pittsburgh. He’s 2-1, 0.34 in four starts after going 2-8, 5.36 with the Pirates…

by Professor Wagstaff

Well, here we are.  The first NFL training camp opens on Saturday in Buffalo, Horsefeathersperhaps because the Bills can’t wait to immerse themselves in the glow and warmth of newly acquired Terrell Owens.  Whatever the reason, the first whistle will also serve to alert Fantasy Owners that their drafts are just a few weeks away.  In most of those drafts, running backs will dominate most of the first two rounds so; the position seems as good a spot as any to start our 2009 previews.

Fantasy Football Running Backs

Studs

Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson carried the ball 363 times last year.  363!  The NFL’s leading rusher probably won’t carry the same load this season but will still be the first pick in your draft… Michael Turner emerged from LT’s shadow in San Diego and became a superstar in Atlanta.  He ran for 220 YDS on Opening Day and never looked back. Ironically, he’ll likely go before Tomlinson in most Fantasy drafts…  It took a year but DeAngelo Williams finally showed the panthers the talent they expected when they drafted him.  His 1,500 YDS were a team record and 20 TD boosted him to an elite Fantasy ranking…  Jaguars’ star Maurice Jones Drew ran for less YDS than anyone in this group but made up for it with better than 500 YDS receiving.  Look for his rushing total to increase in ’09 as he’ll no longer be splitting time with the departed Fred Taylor… Not a bad rookie year for Matt Forte, who quickly became the focal point of the Bears’ offense.  The addition of Jay Cutler won’t hurt him at all since he’s probably Chicago’s best receiver, as well.

Stars

Talk to Fantasy owners that drafted Marion Barber in the first or second round in ‘08 and they’ll tell you they were somewhat disappointed.  Slowed in the final four games by a toe injury, Barber’s production fell off.  Healthy now, don’t look past the fact that he still managed 1,300 total YDS and 10 TD… Frank Gore, slowed in the latter part of the season by a concussion, had 1,500 total YDS and 8 TD.  A new O Coordinator with a reputation for running the ball will give the 49’ers star a huge boost…  Houston’s Steve Slaton went undrafted in many leagues last year (including mine) and was happily grabbed as a FA early on.  He’ll be the starter out of the gate this year so, expect bigger numbers… Brian Westbrook suffered through a litany of injuries last season yet, the Eagles star still had 14 TD and 1,300 YDS.  He’s had off season surgery on his ankle and knee so, be careful but the risk reward for drafting him is huge.

Sleepers

How does one of the greatest RB in the history of the game end up on a Fantasy sleeper list?  When he’s coming off an injury riddled season and he’s over 30, that’s when.  San Diego’s LaDainian Tomlinson is Wagstaff’s pick for steal of the draft in ’09 as he’ll probably go late second or early third round in a year where he’ll show everyone how great he is when healthy… Injuries and the emergence of LeRon McLain made for a tough rookie year for the Ravens’ Ray Rice.  However, McLain will be moved to fullback while Rice will split time with Willis McGahee…  We’re going out on a limb here with Arizona’s Beanie Wells, as he’s slated to split time with Tim Hightower.  The thought, however, is that Wells has more breakaway potential; enough to give him the bulk of the carries and some late round value… Given the history, how can you not want a Denver RB?  Knowshon Moreno will quickly become the Broncos’ go to guy, especially as they gently work Kyle Orton into the offense.

Slippers

A decent sleeper pick in ’08, LenDale White became nothing more than a short yardage specialist for the Titans as the season wore on with Chris Johnson taking the reins.  Don’t get sucked in by his TD total… Age and the Browns’ ineptitude have conspired to rob Jamal Lewis of his Fantasy value.  His totals last year were his lowest in four years and the Browns don’t look like they’ve worked out too many of their problems…, Willis McGahee seems to have hit the infamous RB wall; and the Ravens apparently think so, too.  They’re looking to work Ray Rice into the rotation… The Colts’ Joseph Addai was a first rounder in most Fantasy leagues last year but struggled mightily.  So much so, that Indy used its first pick on Donald Brown, who will definitely take touches from Addai.

Stiffs

  Larry Johnson has asked the Chiefs for a trade and will lose touches to Jamaal Charles and Kolby Smith… In Tampa Bay, Earnest Graham is returning from an ankle injury that cost him the last five weeks of an already disappointing season while battling the newly signed Derrick Ward for playing time… In Baltimore, LeRon McLain became a viable option when Willis McGahee went down.  However, he’s being moved to FB, making him the Ravens’ third option at best.

Fantasy Football Picks: Wagstaff’s Top 20 Running Backs

  1. Adrian Peterson                            
  2. DeAngelo Williams                    
  3.  Matt Forte                                         
  4. Michael Turner                             
  5. Maurice Jones Drew                  
  6. Steve Slaton                                    
  7. LaDainian Tomlinson               
  8. Brian Westbrook                         
  9. Marion Barber                              
  10. Frank Gore                                     
  11. Steven Jackson
  12. Clinton Portis   
  13. Brandon Jacobs   
  14. Knowshon Moreno
  15. Thomas Jones
  16. Marshawn Lynch
  17. Ryan Grant
  18. Joseph Addai
  19. Kevin Smith
  20. Willie Parker                                    
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