Fantasy Football Q&A: Preseason >> July 31

Wondering who you should take in the first round? Trying to figure out if Julius Jones is a better pick than Ahman Green? Want to know how the loss of Randy Moss will affect Daunte Culpepper’s value this year? Draft day is fast approaching and everyone’s got questions. Well, we’re here to help. Throughout the preseason, we’ll run these Q&A threads every Sunday night and then, during the week, you can post your questions. Whether you’re looking for advice on drafting, keepers, trades, scoring, whatever, post them here (by clicking “comments”) and we’ll give you our opinions. We’re not saying we know everything under the fantasy sun, but nobody does…even if some sites claim otherwise. We do, however, have a few decades’ worth of fantasy experience and if you’re looking for answers, you’ll find some here. So fire away, and we’ll try to post a response within 24 hours.

PLUS: We’ll be running weekly Q&A threads during the regular season to take your questions on match-ups, lineup decisions, trades and free-agent pickups.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Manny does what Manny does best

For the past week, everyone was wondering if Manny Ramirez would be in Boston following today’s trade deadline. Well, he is and Sunday afternoon, he showed why the Sox were so reluctant to give him up. Ramirez didn’t start the past two games, with manager Terry Francona saying he and Manny thought, under the circumstances, that it would be best if he sat out until all of the hoopla surrounding his possible trade died down. But this afternoon, with runners on first and second and the game tied in the bottom of the eighth inning, Manny stepped to the plate to a roaring ovation and promptly delivered the game-winning single. Manny loved it, saluting the crowd and smiling as he stood on first, and Sox fans loved it too.

Ramirez was booed pretty heavily at Fenway throughout his latest “episode,” but the bottom line is he’s one of the top run-producers in all of baseball and a future Hall of Famer, and you don’t give guys like that away. Sure, he’s got his issues but with the game on the line and runners on base, there aren’t many players I’d want at the plate more than Manny Ramirez. And I’m sure Francona and most Sox fans feel the same way.

Reitsma destined for set-up duty?

AL- and NL-only fantasy owners can breathe easy now that studs like Manny Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano and AJ Burnett have stayed put on baseball’s deadline day. But while there was very little movement today, there were a couple of deals that have fantasy implications.

The most notable move on the fantasy front was the Braves dealing for Detroit closer Kyle Farnsworth. Farnsworth owners who were enjoying all the saves they were seeing following Troy Percival’s season-ending injury are now left to wonder if their pitcher will fall into a set-up role behind Atlanta closer Chris Reitsma. Reitsma owners, meanwhile, are wondering if Farnsworth is going to come in and steal their saves. How will it pan out? Well, as a Reitsma owner myself, I’m hoping the Braves slide Farnsworth into the set-up role, replacing demoted closer Dan Kolb, and leave Reitsma alone. After all, Reitsma has been solid as the Atlanta stopper, registering 14 saves in 18 opportunities, with two of those blown saves coming while he was still a set-up man. Plus, Reitsma’s been fantastic of late, allowing two earned runs in his last 15 appearances while notching eight saves and two wins during that stretch. Unfortunately, Farnsworth may be better suited for the closer’s role. He’s got one of the best power arms in the game and he’s been a monster for the Tigers all year, racking up 55 strikeouts in 43 innings and successfully converting all five save opportunities he’s been handed following Percival’s injury. Plus, he’s got a nifty 2.32 ERA and opposing batters have hit just .192 off him. Reitsma, meanwhile, has been nearly as effective, with a 3.16 ERA and .246 average against, but while he may not have done anything to lose his job, Farnsworth may very well have done enough to take Reitsma’s job.

Of course, the good news is there are saves up for grabs in Detroit now. It looks like the best candidate to take over for Farnsworth as the Tigers closer would be Fernando Rodney, who’s got a 2.21 ERA and 25 Ks in 20 innings of work. If you’ve got the room, go ahead and give Rodney a chance, particularly if you’re dealing with the uncertainty of Farnsworth and/or Reitsma. Rodney could excel as Detroit’s closer and, especially this late in the season, picking some spare saves up off the waiver wire is always a bonus. Go get him.

The only other trade that seems to have any fantasy impact would be the Cubs acquiring Matt Lawton from the Pirates for Jody Gerut. Most of Lawton’s numbers should remain steady as the leadoff man in Chicago now, but he’ll score more runs while hitting ahead of Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez. Of course, Lee and Ramirez should see a nice boost in RBI as well with Lawton’s healthy .380 OB% ahead of them in the lineup. The only potential downside for Lawton owners would be the off-chance that he’ll sit against some lefties with the Cubs, but you can expect to see him in the lineup most nights no matter who’s on the mound.

UPDATE: As of now, the Braves are saying Reitsma is still the closer but that could very well change. Stay tuned. As for the Tigers, General Manager Dave Dombrowski announced Rodney will get the first shot to replace Farnsworth.

Trade deadline yields little movement

So AJ Burnett is still with the Marlins, Alfonso Soriano is still in Texas and Manny Ramirez is still with Boston. What a boring deadline day for baseball, with no big names changing teams. Randy Winn? Geoff Blum? Ron Villone? Yawn.

Of course, a couple of teams managed to improve, with the Cubs picking up Matt Lawton from the Pirates for Jody Gerut and the Braves strengthening their bullpen by adding Tigers closer Kyle Farnsworth for two young arms. The Giants, meanwhile, may be better off with Winn in center field but Jesse Foppert was too much to pay in return.

But what about everyone else? All of the contenders have holes that needed to be filled: the Red Sox need help at the back end of their bullpen, regardless of whether or not Keith Foulke regains his form after returning from the DL, the Yankees have been trying to plug the leaks in their rotation with guys like Al Leiter and Shawn Chacon, and the Twins, White Sox, Mets and just about everyone in the NL West could use a bat or two. With all the build up we’ve been subjected to the past couple of weeks, the relative lack of movement is surprising and disappointing. In particular, the Red Sox seemed to have missed out on a golden opportunity, considering the problems the Yankees are having with their rotation. Getting a guy like Aubrey Huff from the Devil Rays would’ve instantly improved their chances of winning the East, and you’re telling me they couldn’t do any better than Roman Colon and Zach Miner, the pitchers Atlanta gave up for Farnsworth? Farnsworth’s power arm would’ve been the perfect Foulke insurance. Plus, the Yankees’ struggles present a golden opportunity for everyone else in the AL to sneak into the playoffs, but teams like the Twins, Blue Jays, A’s and Indians failed to take advantage.

Now, the attention turns back to the standings, with the Red Sox, White Sox, Angels, Braves, Cardinals and Padres leading their respective divisions, and Oakland and Houston topping some tight wild-card races. It’ll be interesting, even if deadline day was anything but.

Where’s Larry? Who cares?

So Larry Brown’s the new head coach of the Knicks. Awesome. Now can we all get on with our lives again? The amount of attention devoted to Brown the past few months has been sickening. I understand he’s one of the best coaches in NBA history and I also understand that the Knicks job is one of the most coveted posts in the league, but this was ridiculous. The first rumor with any apparent substance to it was that Brown would become the Cavaliers’ new team president once the Pistons’ season was over, but then Brown went out of his way to assure everyone in Detroit that he intended on coaching next year and that he intended on doing it with the Pistons. Then the Cleveland rumor really started heating up. Then Cavs owner Dan Gilbert announced that he would not be hiring Brown. Then Brown’s status with the Pistons grew even more uncertain as we received daily updates on the discussions Brown and Detroit GM Joe Dumars were having. Then the announcement came that the Pistons bought out Brown’s contract and he was free to coach whomever he wanted in 2005. Then we heard of lunch and dinner meetings between Brown, Isiah Thomas and Knicks owner James Dolan. It got to the point where I half expected to see Brown on the cover of The Enquirer with a headline that read, “I’m having Isiah’s baby!” Thankfully, the fiasco is over and we can all go back to wondering what team is going to overpay for Antoine Walker and whether Damon Stoudamire will be able to establish a reliable weed hook-up in his new city.

Of course, the real question regarding Brown is, can he lead the Knicks to the playoffs next year? I say no. The East is looking pretty tough right now, with the Pistons and Heat once again representing the conference’s two best teams. You know Philly, Indiana and (most likely) Boston will be in the thick of the playoff race again, plus the young Bulls should prove that last year wasn’t a fluke while the Wizards rebounded nicely from losing Larry Hughes to the Cavs. And then you’ve got the Nets, who added Shareef Abdur-Rahim and will welcome back a healthy Richard Jefferson, and the Cavs, who may be one of the most improved teams in the NBA thanks to the acquisitions of Hughes and Donyell Marshall and the re-signing of Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Plus, the Bucks added some depth this summer and the Magic certainly have the talent to make the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Knicks’ best player is a shoot-first point guard (Stephon Marbury) whose attitude and game clashed with Brown during last year’s Olympics, their starting shooting guard (Jamal Crawford) is, somehow, more of a ball-hog than Marbury, and they dealt their best big man (Kurt Thomas) for a small forward (Quentin Richardson) who loves to hang out beyond the arc as much as Marbury and Crawford do. And to top it all off, the Knicks are buried in cap problems and nobody on the roster can play a lick of defense.

Can the Knicks make the playoffs next year? It’s certainly conceivable, if some of the East’s second-tier teams fall short of expectations. If anyone can pull it off, it’d be Brown. But I just don’t see it happening, not with that roster.

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