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last night's moral: a 12-and-a-half-game lead doesn't eliminate the possibility of tense, taut baseball. wish i'd seen the whole game; had to settle for the squeeze itself, which happened just after i turned on the tube, and the bottom of the 9th, a fairly routine iz-venture. feels just as good to win one of those when you're 12 games up as when you're half a game up --- in some respects better, because you don't have the sweaty palms and the acute fear of failure. it's kind of analogous to the diff'nce between sex with a new lover and sex w a longtime partner --- the one offers more in the way of superficial thrills, the other a deeper sense of contentment.

and you just know this tune was playing in the clubhouse after the game.

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the cardinals need an outfielder, no doubt about it. lotta discussion about it here and elsewhere --- adam dunn, austin kearns, kevin mench, etc etc. i see the need and hope the cards address it. but am i alone in thinking the cardinals just as badly need a quality left-handed arm in the pen?

prob'ly not alone, but it's a minority opinion no doubt. the cardinals' bullpen has been so dominant through 84 games that you're tempted to leave alone, lest you mess up a good thing.

i'm for messing.

nothing personal against randy flores, but he simply isn't that good. though he has turned in 25 effective innings this season, they don't outweigh the 1,000+ forgettable innings he's thrown (mostly in the minors) over the last 10 years. when carlos delgado or brian giles or nick johnson steps up with men on base in the 7th inning of some playoff game, i for one am not gonna feel that comfortable sending randy flores out there to retire him. postseason games are close and more often than not hinge on late-inning confrontations, and --- as rich lederer and dave studeman (among others) have documented --- these game-turning at-bats are usually handled not by the bullpen ace but by the setup men. i've been making this case since mid-may, and it hasn't changed: the cards' left-handed setup men are vulnerable, the type of weakness the playoffs ruthlessly expose. think game 3 of the 2001 divisional playoffs, mike mathews v craig counsell ---- the series turned on that confrontation. mathews had pitched well in 2001, at least as well as flores has pitched this year. but when it mattered most, the journeyman in him rose to the surface.

read this two-month-old post for a more detailed exposition. and read this one-month-old post for a survey of the trade market for left-handed relievers. with cleveland and oakland having played their way back into contention, maybe arthur rhodes and ricardo rincon are no longer available. but kent mercker and eddie guardado can surely be had, and my original infatuation, billy wagner, may be on the market before long. the phils have fallen back to .500, jim thome is injured again, and wagner has been questioning the organization's (and his teammates') guts. those are the comments of a guy who wants out of town --- preferably to a team that does play to win. the phils aren't quite ready to cut bait, but they're getting close. they are looking to bolster their rotation, and the cards are one of the few organizations out there with starting pitchers to shop.

if it were possible --- big if, admittedly --- to acquire wagner for jason marquis and sweeteners, would it be a good move? unless things suddenly click for jason, he probably won't be back in stl next season; he's arbitration eligible, and the cards will likely turn him loose rather than get stuck with an overpriced pitcher. so he's only a card'l for the rest of this season plus the playoffs. the question becomes: which pitcher would you rather have between now and november 1: marquis or wagner?

to me it's a no-brainer ---- marquis' last 10 starts of the season go to chris gissell or kevin jarvis or one of the other memphis veterans; it costs the cardinals two games or so, but who cares? in the playoffs, marquis would only make one start per series anyway; little if anything is lost by giving that game to suppan.

and what is gained? a shutdown reliever who might stifle two or three rallies in every postseason series.

anybody with me?