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Fantasy Fix

By Dan O'Shea

Are you ready to trust Manny? Since returning from a drug-related suspension last Friday, Manny Ramirez has gone 4-16 at the plate with two home runs and five RBIs, which isn't bad for a guy who went two months without seeing major league pitching. Since the beginning of his suspension, I have liked the potential for "Man-Ram" to come back and be like Steve Austin with a bat during the second half of the season. Because Manny is so famously loose about nearly everything, I felt he could deal with any stress, boos and (possibly, sadly) syringes that might be tossed his way.

However, while he looks to be making contact just like the old Manny, a disturbing trend is afoot. He was ejected from Tuesday night's game against the Mets at Citi Field in New York for arguing balls and strikes (actually for tossing his gear in the direction of home plate in protest of a called third strike). It was the second time during the game he argued with the plate umpire and at least the third time he argued an umpire's call in his first three starts back. Both of Tuesday night's protests came on truly questionable calls, and I have wondered in recent games if umpires might be gunning for Manny just a bit. No one would ever admit that, of course, and forgive me for the sacrilege, but it wouldn't surprise me if umpires stretched the strike zone for opposing pitchers as sort of a welcome-back hazing for a hitter who has been connected to performance-enhancing drugs.

Whether the umpires are jobbing him, though, Manny's short fuse with umpires should concern his owners. Throughout his career, when Manny has shown a little discontent, it has grown into a huge problem and distraction very quickly. That could further lead to insubordination-related suspensions, a lack of desire, a slide in overall performance and perhaps even a prolonged benching. Enjoy Manny's numbers for now, but keep an eye on this situation, especially as fantasy league trading deadlines approach in the next month or so.

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Speaking of trading deadlines, the MLB trading deadline is July 31. Here are a few name to keep an eye on:

* Garrett Atkins, 1B/3B: He was projected to have a strong year for the Colorado Rockies, and likely was a third- or fourt- round pick in many fantasy leagues. Instead, he has only 6 HRs and 31 RBIs, and is hitting a paltry .225. Still, there's a possibility he could end up in Boston to replace the injured Mike Lowell or could land somewhere else. It seems like his name comes up every year at trade time, and this time a change of scenery might help his numbers.

* Roy Halladay, SP: He was rolling toward a Cy Young until spending some time on the disabled list, but he's still a top-tier pitcher and a reliable source of complete games. Toronto is said to be shopping him. His numbers could take a hit in another home park or in the National League, where he would not be allowed to finish as many games. Still, one possible destination that would make sense is Milwaukee, whose offense would provide him with plenty of support, and whose management allowed another free agent superstud, CC Sabathia, to finish games last season (though that was before the arrival of all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman.

* Victor Martinez, C, 1B: With Cleveland experiencing its annual first-half nosedive, it can't be long before the Indians conduct their annual fire sale. V-Mart's average has dropped about 50 points in the last month or so to .299, but he's got impressive power (14 HRs, 57 RBIs) that would be a nice addition just about anywhere.

* The following Arizona Diamondbacks: Chad Tracy, 1B; Doug Davis, SP; Jon Garland, SP; Felipe Lopez, 2B/3B/SS/OF: According to Yahoo! Sports, the D-backs are backing up the truck, and any of these players are likely to produce better numbers elsewhere.

Among other reports from the expert wire:

* Brandon Funston of Yahoo! MLB Skinny posts his fantasy All-Star team choices. Nice to see Fantasy Fix favorite Jason Bartlett on the list.

* SI.com's RotoExperts predicts big second-half surges for B.J. Upton and John Danks. Upton has picked himself up in the last month so he's an easy choice here. We still like Roy Oswalt as our favorite second-half buy.

* Canada's TSN.com has an interesting story on the history of fantasy sports and fantasy baseball in particular. The story mentions legendary sports writers/editors Daniel Okrent and Steve Wulf and the creation of the original fantasy baseball league at La Rotisserie Francaise restaurant in New York City in 1980.

Does this mean the official food and drink of fantasy league baseball should be bouillabaisse and something fruity from Alsace rather than hot dogs and something foamy from Old Style?

In any case, when you sit down next week before your pre-All-Star game feast to give thanks, don't forget to give thanks to our fantasy founding fathers, without the help of whom we would be lost for a hobby on which to fritter away our spare time and brain power.

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Dan O'Shea's Fantasy Fix appears every Wednesday, except when it appears on Thursday. Tips, comments, and suggestions are welcome. You can also read his about his split sports fan personality at SwingsBothWays, which isn't about what it sounds like It's about.

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