Wednesday, May 7, 2008

"Miranda Warnings": Randolph on the Hot Seat?

Welcome to Week #6 of "Miranda Warnings", your weekly guide to what's happening in the world of Major League Baseball, from a fantasy baseball perspective. Every Wednesday morning, throughout baseball's regular season, "Miranda Warnings" will appear on I'm your host Michael Miranda.

National League East:
The general consensus is that Texas Manager Ron Washington will be the first managing casualty of 2008. If Washington tops this list, Met Manager Willie Randolph (pictured) has to be a close second. I haven't heard any rumors (nor do I want to start any) about Willie's demise. However, Willie has been at the helm long enough for us to sit back, reflect and see if he should continue as Mets manager. Except for an impressive 2005, Willie's three-plus years as manager have yielded mostly disappointing results. In the 2006 NLCS, the Mets lost to the eventual (but clearly inferior) World Series champions, the St.Louis Cardinals. In 2007, "the meltdown" (as it has come to be known) saw the Mets miss the playoffs by blowing a seven game September NL East lead to Philadelphia! Willie is a "nice guy" and that's part of the problem. He's a very easy-going, laid-back (nothing wrong with that) kind of guy. Unfortunately, the Mets have been underachieving for the last two seasons and need someone to "light a fire" under them, so that they can play up to their potential. The last thing that Willie's "nice guy" persona is going to do is "light a fire" under this team. Following their current west coast road trip, the Mets have a "soft" seven-game homestand (3 versus Cincinnati, 4 versus Washington) coming up. If the Mets don't end that homestand, at the very least, 5-2, you're going to start to hear, moreso than ever, that it's time to remove Willie. So, you're asking: "What does Willie Randolph's managerial status have to do with fantasy baseball?" Answer: "everything!". If Willie's job becomes tenuous, or if he's fired, maybe underachievers like SS Jose Reyes, P's Oliver Perez, Mike Pelfrey and Aaron Heilman can start playing up to their potential for the Mets and for our fantasy baseball teams... Philadelphia SS Jimmy Rollins (ankle) has been playing well in extended Spring Training in Clearwater, FL and hopes to return to action this week... Atlanta SP John Smoltz, currently on the DL with shoulder fatigue, says that when he returns, it will be as a reliever. Look for him to become the new Braves closer, if P Rafael Soriano is unable to get over his elbow woes. The many miles on Smoltz's shoulder have caught up to him and he has become a 1-2 inning pitcher. Keep in mind that it was not too long ago (2002) that Smoltz posted a sick 55 saves coming out of the Braves pen!... Washington P Jon Rauch is firmly entrenched as closer, with P Chad Cordero (shoulder) going on the disabled list... Along with Philadelphia 2B Chase Utley (.350 BA, 13 HR's), Florida SS Hanley Ramirez (.318 BA, 8 HR's, 19 RBI's, 11 SB's) is, arguable, fantasy baseball's best player.

National League Central: After hitting two more HR's Tuesday night, Pittsburgh CF Nate McLouth (.333 BA, 30 runs, 9 HR's, 28 RBI's) is on a rampage!... Entering Tuesday's night games, guess who leads all of Major League Baseball in hitting with runners in scoring position? Cincinnati SS Jeff Keppinger (.444 BA)! Unfortunately, Keppinger is one of the few Reds bright spots lately as their offense has been sputtering. This means that we might see super-prospect OF Jay Bruce, in the near future. Bruce is hitting .292 with 5 HR's and 7 SB's at Triple A. If, for some reason, Bruce remains available in your fantasy league, scoop him up ASAP!... Despite high expectations, expect a long, long season in Milwaukee. The player that Milwaukee could least to afford to lose for an extended period of time is P Ben Sheets. Second on this list is young phenom P Yovanni Gallardo. Gallardo (torn ACL) is, most likely, out for the season. Although Gallardo is not the heart of the Brewers (he might be some day), his injury has torn the heart out of this team. Since putting Gallardo on the DL, the Brew Crew is 0-4... On Tuesday night, St.Louis Cardinal OF Rick Ankiel made two of the most incredible throws (or should I say missiles!) that you will ever see. On both plays, Ankiel threw the ball about 200 feet, on the fly, to nail base runners trying to make it to third base! Both plays were critical, as St.Louis edged Colorado 6-5. Make certain that you see footage of these plays. No doubt, you will be as impressed as I was... Here's the stat-line of the week, perhaps of the year! On Tuesday night versus Washington, Houston 1B Lance Berkman was 5-for-5, with 4 runs scored, 1 RBI and 2 SB's! For the season, Berkman is hitting .353!... Attemtping to spark both pitcher and team, Cubs Manager Lou Piniella sent P Rich Hill to Triple A. Hill didn't make it out of the first inning in his final start (versus St.Louis) before being demoted. Hill walked four in 2/3's of an inning!

National League West: After his 1-for-4 Tuesday versus the Mets, Dodger OF Andruw Jones is at .162 (that is not a typo) and shows no signs of getting out of his season-long slump. In the meantime, the three other Dodger OF's (Juan Pierre, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier) are flourishing... Arizona phenom P Max Scherzer was shaky in his first major league start. Philadelphia got to him for 5 runs in an 11-4 Phillies win. With P Doug Davis' (thyroid cancer surgery) pending return, Scherzer's stay in the majors could be short-lived or he could be sent to the D-back's bullpen to work in long-relief. For those of you in rare fantasy baseball leagues that count pitchers hitting stats, try this on for size: Arizona P Micah Owings has a career OPS of 1.058! Owings recently hit a two-run, pinch-hit homer to help Arizona rally to an 8-7 win over Houston... Barely into May, Colorado (2007 NL Champs!) and San Diego, both considered, by most, to be 2008 contenders, find themselves tied for last-place in the NL West, a whopping 10 games behind division-leading Arizona! If both teams don't pick up the pace in the next few weeks, they'll be out of contention by Memorial Day!... In the "how far the mighty have fallen" department, San Francisco P Barry Zito (0-6, 7.53 ERA, 1.95 WHIP!) was removed from the starting rotation and banished to the bullpen to work out his problems.

American League East: The Yankees starting rotation is one big mess and fans are regretting the teams commitment to youth. P Phil Hughes (fractured rib) is not expected to return until July, at the earliest. Meanwhile, P Ian Kennedy was sent to Triple A after several ineffective starts. Both Hughes and Kennedy were horrible and won't be missed. However, they both need to regroup and show their potential. P Darrell Rasner (6 IP, 5 hits, 2 ER, 4 K's) was recalled from Triple A to help the starting rotation and he did just that, defeating the light-hitting Mariners this past Sunday, 8-2. A real test for Rasner comes later this week when he takes on Detroit... Despite issuing 8 BB's in 5 IP's, Boston P Daisuke Matsuzaka defeated Detroit this past Monday, 6-3... In an era where starting pitchers are babied, coddled and usually don't go more than six or seven innings, Toronto P Roy Halladay is a workhorse. He already has four complete games in 2008! Yes, four!... Scott Kazmir (elbow) returned from the DL this past Sunday versus Boston and looked shaky. Kazmir (4 IP, 6 hits, 4 runs, 3 BB's, 5 K's) must remain healthy if the Rays have any chance of competing in the AL East... Baltimore P Adam Loewen (elbow) is expected to begin a throwing program (according to and should be back in the O's starting rotation by late May or early June.

American League Central: Detroit released OF Jacque Jones (.165 BA) and will play Gary Sheffield in LF, for the foreseeable future. Or, so they say! Could free agent Barry Bonds be lurking in the background? Don't discount it. In the early 90's, Bonds played LF in Pittsburgh for current Detroit Manager (then, Pittsburgh Manager), Jim Leyland. The two remain best of friends. However, Bonds comes with a ton of baggage and Detroit has problems of its own with a current five-game losing streak. Detroit is dead-last in the AL Central... For the second time this season, Chicago White Sox P Gavin Floyd came within a few outs of a no-hitter. His most recent attempt at baseball immortality was broken up with one out in the ninth inning by Minnesota C Joe Mauer. Floyd and the White Sox went on to win, 7-1... Speaking of Mauer, despite no HR's, he is currently hitting a healthy .336!... Who says "nobody's perfect!" Kansas City closer Joakim Soria is just that. In 13 IP's, Soria's ERA is o.oo!... As of 5/7, Cleveland C Victor Martinez leads the AL in hitting with a .347 BA!

American League West: Injured A's right-hander Rich Harden (6 IP, 3 hits, 9 K's) had a dominating rehab start Tuesday. The always-injured pitcher is schedule to start on Sunday at Texas... Speaking of Texas, it's only of matter of when, not if, Manager Ron Washington gets canned. Texas' main culprit, for years, has been pitching (both, starting and relief) and 2008 is no different. As I've said many times before, no Texas pitcher has any business being on a fantasy baseball roster, even in the deepest of leagues! Don't expect P Sidney Ponson (2-0, 1.33 ERA) to continue to baffle hitters. It's only a matter of time before he comes back down to earth.... LA Angels starting pitchers Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana have both stepped up their games admirably as LA deals with injuries to P's John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar. Saunders and Santana are both 6-0! Lackey is scheduled to return later this month... Seattle has begun a mini youth-movement, promoting C Jeff Clement and OF Wladimir Balentien from Triple-A. Both players have good upside and will see regular AB's.

See you next week!

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