Andrew Kneeland asked, so I’m going to deliver — at least in a short, perfunctory way. Well, perfunctory is perhaps a bad word choice; I’m not dismissive of the topic at all, and I think it’s a neat idea, but I’ve written quite a bit about Punto over the years and lack the motivation to really dig down deep right now. Nonetheless, I will go to the well one more time to distill my thoughts into the pure essence of how I feel about Nick Punto:
1.) I love Nick Punto’s enthusiasm and hustle on the field. It is that quality that made him (and kept him) a Major Leaguer. Players like that are valuable because of the effect they can have on team morale and the motivational spark they can provide.
2.) Unfortunately, this enthusiasm and hustle is tempered by a donkey-like stubbornness. There is no excuse for Punto continuing to slide head-first into first base. For one thing, it’s generally acknowledged that this is actually slower than running a ball out. More importantly, however, Punto has been continuously told by his manager to STOP. Basically, he’s committing a little baserunning mutiny. Just run, Nick. Just run.
3.) Punto remains the Twins best defensive option at 2B, SS, and 3B. And no, I’m not going to justify that by digging through the defensive stats that are available because I don’t like the defensive stats anyway. I’m just going to put it out there as a bald-faced assertion and if anybody wants to challenge me on it I’ll . . . well, I probably won’t do anything actually. Maybe call them a mean name in the comments or something. That’ll teach ’em.
4.) Punto is DUE. Since 2006, he has alternated good seasons with bad seasons. Since I’m throwing science and reason completely to the wind with this post anyway (see #’s 1, 2, and 3 above, in which I make no attempt to actually justify or quantify anything that I’m saying) I might as well go whole hog and just accept the notion of superstition and the inevitability of unexplainable, magical periodicity in Punto’s performances. Hence, Punto is due, and in whatever role he plays in 2010 he will quite obviously be brilliant.
My conclusion? While unoriginal and not particularly exciting, my position is that Punto is a valuable player to have on the team, especially when he’s filling a backup, super utility kind of role. I don’t believe Punto should be used as a regular at 3B because I don’t think he brings enough offensively to justify himself. At SS or 2B, there’s a different argument to be made, because the defensive skills Punto brings to the table have greater importance — but of course the Twins have better options to start at SS and 2B. As a result, Punto slots beautifully into the SuperSub role. In the modern era of 12 man pitching staffs, this makes him particularly useful. For that reason, I am grateful that the Twins still have Punto for fans to kick around — and whether you engage in Punto bashing or not, you should be too.