Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I Hate Nick Punto

It is time for the Twins organization to figure it out. I know that they’re a franchise that prides themselves on “doing the little things” and playing their own style of baseball: a small-ball, National League-type of game where you move runners around and play for a run at a time. And believe me; I have no problem with this. I think that’s the way everyone should play the game. It’s baseball in its purest form. But the focus on getting players to fit into this mold has gone too far this year and it’s time to make some adjustments.

You simply cannot call yourself a major league franchise with glorified utility players getting regular at-bats, especially when they are complete failures at their job. Yes, I’m talking about Nick Punto. Don’t believe it when Dick and Bert tell you that he’s “a hustle guy” and that his defense is impeccable. Flat out, he is the worst hitter in Major League Baseball and he needs to return to the bench where he belongs. Before last night, Nicky had 3 hits in his last 15 games, good for a robust .100 average (3 for 30). On the season he’s hitting .208, which places him in dead last among all players who have enough at bats to qualify for the batting title. Yahoo Fantasy Baseball currently has him ranked as their 914th best player.

Does he play quality defense? Sure. Is it irreplaceable defense? Absolutely not. Punto makes the highlight reel play from time to time, but personally I wonder if he overdoes it because he knows it’s his only chance of getting any playing time. Most Twins fans will remember the play he had earlier this summer when he was playing second base, charged a softly hit ground ball, and went parallel to the ground as he flipped it to first for the out. I remember thinking at the time that it was an outstanding play. Then the other week I saw virtually the same ball hit to Alexi Casilla. He charged the ball, bare-handed it, and calmly flipped it to Morneau to record the out. It didn’t make SportsCenter or Baseball Tonight; because it was routine, like Punto’s should have been earlier in the year.

You can’t tell me that .200 hitters with a solid glove aren’t available at any level of baseball. A lot has been made of Matt Moses’ (the former future third baseman) struggles over the last year or so in the minors. Has he really struggled to the point that the organization doesn’t think he can even hit above the Mendoza line in the Bigs? Why not bring him up and give him a shot, especially since the Twins are pretty much out of the playoff race now? Why continually let Punto play everyday? It’s gotten to the point now where Nicky can’t even put down a sacrifice bunt. He’s botched two in the last three games. I’ve seen him mess up no fewer than six of these over the last month. Are you kidding me? A .200 hitter who can’t even lay down a sac bunt?

I used to blame Gardenhire for playing Punto as often as he did. But now I wonder if orders are coming down from the front office to play him. After last night’s game, one in which Tricky Nicky failed to get a crucial sac bunt down in the ninth inning, Gardy repeatedly blasted Punto in his post game press conference. His disgust was even evident during the game as the camera panned to him right after the botched attempt. Then I remembered that the team signed Punto to a two year, $4.2 million contract this past offseason. Is it possible that Terry Ryan is trying to validate that ridiculous expenditure by forcing Gardy’s hand and making him play virtually everyday?

We have an expanded roster coming in two weeks. I’m not sure if Brian Buscher is going to be healthy by then, but even if he isn’t, there is absolutely no reason for Nick Punto to be on the field for the rest of the year. In fact, terminate his contract at the end of the year. I don’t care if it costs us a little money. He is not a factor in the future of the franchise and has no business being on the field right now.

No comments: