- Tristan H. Cockcroft, Fantasy
Here's a quick look at some of the big stories going on in fantasy baseball this week:
• Is it panic time in New York? The powerhouse Mets dropped three straight games to the Philadelphia Phillies (entering Thursday), Pedro Martinez is back on the disabled list, Tom Glavine is looking every one of his 40 years of age, Carlos Delgado in August has only one more hit (6) than Jose Reyes has home runs (5), and the outfield is depleted enough by trades and injuries that on Tuesday, well-traveled Michael Tucker earned a start. Still, in spite of all of that, the Mets still possess a 12-game lead in the National League East race, with a magic number of 32, so all of this really means nothing to them. Well, at least today, it doesn't. New York has enough of a lead that it's virtually guaranteed to still be playing baseball the first week of October, and while it's frustrating for fantasy owners to see this team so up-and-down in performance of late, does any of it really matter to the Mets? They have the luxury of six more weeks to set themselves up for the playoffs, deciding who is worthy of those rotation spots, giving players the occasional September rest to keep them fresh, taking every precaution with injuries. Frankly, the Mets don't care about your fantasy team, nor should they. That means that for the rest of the year, Martinez and Glavine won't be worked too hard, Carlos Beltran, Delgado, Jose Reyes and David Wright could get the occasional day off and you can count on some of these fringe playoff starters and bench options to get long looks to help the decision-making for October. It's not enough to rob those studs of too much fantasy value, but it's a factor, and I'd look for the less-prominent types like John Maine and Lastings Milledge to get every chance to exceed expectations. It's the less-notable names that could surprise you in September.
• Speaking of those Phillies, entering Thursday, they were the National League's second-hottest team in August, with a 10-5 record. Despite being sellers at the trade deadline, Philadelphia has charged back into the NL wild-card picture -- the Phils are fourth and 2.5 games back of Cincinnati -- and it's in large part to the team's new wave of superstars, led by Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. Leadoff Jimmy Rollins is one of the hottest players in baseball, with a .382 batting average and 1.140 OPS in August, and don't overlook the contributions of new No. 2 hitter and right fielder David Dellucci (.421/1.382 in August; Bobby Abreu wasn't giving them those kinds of numbers!). Few one-through-four orders in baseball are as potent as this one, and with rookie Cole Hamels showing signs of escaping his adjustment period and veteran Jon Lieber looking a lot closer to his 2005 form in his past few starts, the Phillies are absolutely a playoff contender once more. Heck, even Randy Wolf has looked solid since returning from Tommy John surgery! Even if the team's hot streak cools, which is always a possibility, this isn't your traditional fade-into-nothing team following its deadline deals. There's still a lot of real fantasy talent here.
Tristan Cockcroft discusses some hot topics around the major leagues.