re the mind-f*cking of jason marquis, go read rob's post at the birdwatch; he covers all the points concisely and with the appropriate mix of sympathy and frustration. also see bellyscratcher's memo to tony on the subject.
rob sees "desperation" in la russa's decision-making vis-vis marquis. that's an apt characterization, but i've had a different word rattling around in my head: urgency. tony wants it too bad, his longtime blessing/curse as a manager. it's the type of leadership that produces relentless, vigilant teams that rarely back down; but the impulse inevitably betrays him, compels him to make the wrong move for the wrong reason or put a guy into the wrong situation. it's that impulse which leads him, almost every year, to start a pitcher on three days' rest in the postseason, with disastrous results; it's that impulse which sometimes leads to hyperactive bunting and obsessive bullpen management. the guy's a reg'lar yiddishe mama; he can't just relax, he's got to have something to worry about. (no offense, mom.) la russa seems to have reined himself in the last couple of years, managed a little less anxiously; but i think we're seeing the bad old habit resurface in tony's mishandling of marquis (and probably, too, in his mishandling of scott rolen). anxiety begets anxiety; in this case tony has inflamed, rather than tempered, marquis' unhealthy fixation on his win total and helped elevate it into one of the major storylines of the season's second half.
whatever you want to call it -- urgency, desperation -- it has clearly got marquis in a death grip. just watch him on the mound. effort is written across his face in enormous boldface type (even between pitches), the sweat pours off him in anguished torrents, and anything that might prolong his circumstances -- an adverse umpiring call, a bad play afield behind him -- elicits extreme agitation. (did you notice his expression last night after rodriguez's little steeplechase trot out in left in the second inning?) it's like watching somebody try to pass a kidney stone or an impacted stool . . . . not that i've ever seen a person so engaged, but still -- that's the image that comes to mind.
the worst part of this -- nicely encapsulated in rob's post at birdwatch -- is that la russa is making marquis' performance look much, much worse than it really is. if jason had been relieved at the appropriate time in his last five starts -- ie, if tony had managed with his head rather than his heart -- his line would read 9-10, 3.68, rather than 9-12, 4.36. i've wondered throughout this stretch if marquis' contract status plays a factor in all of this; his 2006 salary may well be determined by an arbitrator, and jason doubtless would like to go into the hearing room with 15 wins on his stat sheet. maybe tony, concsiously or unconcsiously, wants to help his pitcher out -- but if that's the case, his caretaking is doing more damage than good. now jason will go into the offseason saddled not only with a subpar win total but also with an unsightly era -- one that distorts the quality of jason's performance, to his own disadvantage.
Sir VLCIV wrote an in-depth diary back in june about la russa's staying too long with jeff suppan. read through the comments --- he later appended similar analysis of all five starting pitchers, including marquis, with the attendant cost of FTPP (failure to pull pitcher).
and if you haven't read Brock20's diary about his adventures at miller park last week during the cards-brewers series, check it out; a longish post, but worth the read.