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we find the defendant . . . .

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how fitting that the cardinals will face danny haren tonight. . . . . .

in this trial that i'm hearing, the defendant faces (among various charges) four counts of fraud. he's accused of passing himself off as a professional in a discipline in which he had no training and held no license to practice --- a total imposter. when i look at this guy today in court, something tells me i'm going to see kip wells' face. 4 walks, a hit batsmen, and a wild pitch in 11 batters faced? that's plain criminal --- and the case is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. in the people v. wells, the jury's already in: get the man off the streets before he ruins more lives, for god's sake.

and as long as i'm sitting in judgment, i gotta cast a guilty vote against la russa and duncan. for the second consecutive year, they've done a poor job of coping with an injury at the top of the rotation, making inefficient use of the available personnel; for the second consecutive year, they've pig-headedly clung to faulty decisions rather than admit what's obvious to everyone, ie their choices are not working out. when they finally do conclude that it's time to drop wells from the rotation (and for all i know that determination has already been made), they'll be the last ones to get there; the fans, sportswriters, talk-show hosts, and even lowly bloggers have been coming around to that position for that last 3 or 4 starts. it will be a bitter pill; duncan hand-picked wells, and he and tony anointed the guy the #2 starting pitcher. they can't blame this one on the front office or on tight-fisted owners; wells was their guy, and they were wrong about him.

just as they were wrong about marquis last year; just as they were wrong (or blind, or in denial) about mulder's injury and is'hausen's hip.

another mistake they've made two years in a row: refusing to bolster the collapsing rotation with an available starting pitcher who's pitching well in the bullpen --- and who was designated as rotation insurance at the outset of the year. last year it was wainwright; this year, ryan franklin. both are career-long starting pitchers who were brought to spring training as thickener --- to sop up starts in case somebody got hurt or pitched himself off the staff. yet when that very need arose, neither was used to plug the rotation hole because --- via logic only tony and dave understand --- they were pitching so well. . . . . i mean, the rotation's in tatters and the bullpen's being shredded by the burden of throwing 4 innings a night; the cardinals' team era is now above 5.00 for the season, and they're dead last in the league in that category. yet la russa has bristled at reporters' suggestions that franklin be used in the role for which he was acquired, i.e. as the #6 starting pitcher. same thing happened last summer with wainwright --- and yes, i'm well aware that wainwright's presence in the bullpen helped the cardinals win in october. but the cardinals almost didn't get to october, and if they hadn't the fault would have lain primarily with dave and tony's mulish inflexibility vis-vis the rotation. all summer they insisted on giving starts to the incompetent marquis and (whenever possible) the injured mulder, while wasting wainwright in the setup role. as we found in october, it's not that difficult to find a setup man. josh kinney --- is he such a special player? ryan franklin's not such a special player either, and his talents are not so unique that no one else on the staff could step into his role. i bet russ springer could handle it. brad thompson briefly had an angle on the job. maybe wellemeyer could do it; he pitched well in key relief spots before they moved him to the rotation. hell, andy cavazos has looked good so far; maybe he'll be this year's version of kinney.

franklin will never be considered anybody's #2 (well, maybe on this staff), but he might be a useful #4 --- something wells obviously isn't. it's time to put him into the rotation, restore reyes, and ship wells to the 'pen and kelvin jimenez back to memphis. like so:

rotation bullpen
wainwright izzy
looper springer
franklin flores
reyes wellemeyer
thompson johnson
cavazos
wells

when carpenter returns, then thompson moves back to the bullpen --- the rotation is carp, franklin, wainer, looper, and reyes, while the 8th-inning role gets filled by thompson, springer, or whoever else happens to claim it.

dave and tony don't like to disrupt things that are working --- i understand the impulse --- and the bullpen endgame is one of the few parts of the cardinal pitching staff that works. but when your car's engine doesn't run, so what if it has a really kick-ass stereo, or an awesome paint job? the cardinals have yielded 5 or more runs 13 times in their last 20 games. that's how you lose series to last-place teams like the royals and nationals; that's how you fall far behind the division leaders even in a terrible division like the nl central. the front office took some risks when restocking the rotation this year, but it also provided some contingencies --- ryan franklin being the chief one. if la russa n duncan don't use it, that's their own fault.