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being bret tomko

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according to mike shannon, jason marquis should have gotten out of the first inning last night with only one run scored against him. per his play-by-play on the mox, rob mackowiak's one-out grounder ought to have been an inning-ending double play -- would have been one, shannon asserted, if grudzielanek were manning the keystone. after watching it on mlb tv, i don't agree. it was an oddly struck ball that kind of knuckled its way out to eckstein; both he and luna got rid of the ball quickly, but it wasn't even close at first base. just another piece of bad luck for marquis (what else is new), who -- forced to get one more out -- labored through a 7-pitch walk and then, on his 29th pitch of the first inning, gave up a bases-clearing triple.

tough break, but a handy illustration of our discussion from yesterday, viz. the run-preventing power of the double play. in this particular case, failure to convert cost the cardinals three runs and, for all intents, the ballgame -- their win expectancy fell to 11 percent after that hit. but if the cards had made that turn on mackowiak, who knows? marquis leaves the mound feeling good, having minimized both the scoring damage and his pitch count. jason induced three double plays in each of his last two starts; another one here, and maybe he would have lasted six innings and kept the game close and his ego intact.

instead we have a pitcher who is on the verge of becoming bret tomko -- if he hasn't already done so. we can add another name to the long list of young pitchers who have failed to establish themselves under duncan / la russa. i don't know what it is with those two; they have a real talent for pushing guys too hard, putting them into situations for which they aren't ready, imposing their will upon young hurlers instead of letting them grow into themselves. it has been sad to watch marquis disintegrate over the last month; his whole career is suddenly on the line, replacement-levelness staring him right in the face. i hope he can re-establish himself, but i don't think he's going to do it with our team.

how 'bout we trade him to kansas city for matt stairs. yes, i am serious; i brought his name up back in june and have thought all along he would upgrade our bench. check his stats before you dismiss the idea; his current-year numbers are better than those of anybody on our bench now, and he is not a one-year or one-month sensation who is playing over his head. stairs may be fat and old, but he gets on base (.372 obp this year; .360 career), hits with pop (.180 isolated power), and would be a damn good left-handed dh in a world series road game. if necessary, he can still play the outfield passably well for six innings and be replaced by a better glove late in the late innings. above all, stairs can pinch-hit -- a career .380 / .492 / .872 coming off the bench. there is undoubtedly going to be a situation late in some tight playoff game when we need a guy like that to face todd jones or brad lidge or chad cordero. as it now stands, the best tony can send up there is john mabry; after him it's the likes of john rodriguez, so taguchi, or jason marquis. since the cards are only going to carry 11 pitchers in the playoffs, they'll have an extra roster spot; i say give it to a hired hitter. stairs has cleared waivers and is not under contract for next season; his 2005 contract has only a few hundred thousand dollars remaining on it. as we saw last night when taguchi got hbp'd, the injury bug might still bite; stl's depth is stretched way beyond capacity.

speaking of bench depth, according to john sickels the athletics are considering calling daric barton up to the majors to dh for them down the stretch. sickels thinks the risks of calling him up are too high, the rewards not commensurate. but there are a lot of people who feel otherwise, as indicated in the comments thread and in this diary (apparently inspired by something the birdwatch's rob hagedorn wrote).