Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Sticking Up For the Little Guy (Apparently)

First of all, I'd like to send out some props to everyone who has continued to stop by this blog regularly as this disappointing season winds down with little excitement. Traffic has remained relatively steady here in the final month of the season, which I really wouldn't have expected. The fact that people are still stopping by and commenting tells me that they're still following the Twins even though the team has been out of the race for quite a while now. I'm impressed with that. In particular, I'd like to thank everybody who commented on yesterday's post. There were a lot of great thoughts added that illustrated a variety of valid viewpoints, and I think it made for a very interesting discussion.

With that said, I think a lot of people were misinterpreting my position on the Nick Punto situation. To be clear, I don't think Punto should be starting over Alexi Casilla or Brian Buscher for the rest of this season, and I don't think Punto is an ideal choice to start at second base next year. But seeing the way Casilla has played both in the minors and majors this year, how can anybody really argue that he's ready to step in and be a starter on a contending major-league team as things currently stand?

On his blog over at ESPN.com (Insider required), Rob Neyer wrote yesterday about the ridiculousness of Ron Gardenhire handing Punto a starting job next season. At the end of his post, Neyer linked to my article from yesterday and labeled me a "dissenting voice" among the chorus of Twins fans who have been very openly critical, which seems to indicate that Neyer thinks I'm a proponent of Gardy's decision.

To be clear, I'm not supportive of the idea that a guy who has hit the way Punto has this year should be handed a starting job the following season. I just think there are a lot of people overreacting to the news. As I wrote in the comments section yesterday, there are a few reasons why I would be able to tolerate Punto being named the starting second baseman at the outset of the 2008 season: 1) he will be moving to a more important position where his defensive skills will be emphasized and his offensive inadequacies will be less egregious; 2) he is bound to improve at least a little at the plate; and 3) there are no clearly superior options at this point in time. Many people seem to be so blinded by hatred for Punto that they can't help but overlook the fact that Casilla has shown this year that he could probably use some more time in the minors.

In his blog post, Neyer claims that Gardenhire is making a big mistake and compares the situation to the Juan Castro/Jason Bartlett fiasco from last season:
What's amazing to me is that Gardenhire has made this exact mistake before, with Bartlett at shortstop -- remember Juan Castro? -- and he seems absolutely determined to do it again with Casilla and Punto.
In my mind, the situations just don't match up. Last year, Bartlett was a 26-year-old who had hit better than .330 for two straight years in Triple-A. Right now, Casilla is 23, and beyond his brutal results with the big-league club, he did not perform very well in Triple-A this season. It was basically now-or-never for Bartlett last year, whereas Casilla has plenty of time to develop (and has given us plenty of reason to believe he still has developing to do).

I apologize if this post just seems like a reiteration of the things I said yesterday, but I wanted to make my position clear so people don't think I'm some sort of gung-ho Punto supporter. I fully share Aaron Gleeman's opinion that Casilla and Buscher should both be starting regularly for the rest of the season, and I was very annoyed to see neither of them in Gardenhire's lineup last night. However, if Casilla continues to struggle through the rest of the season and again in spring training next year, I really don't see why the notion of starting him back Triple-A in 2008 is all that absurd.

9 comments:

brianS said...

yea, we jumped you a little bit for quasi-defending Gardy's all-but-indefensible actions and statement.

If Casilla were to start the rest of the season and stink, well, I don't think that really changes much for me. He still needs to make the club in the spring by outplaying the likes of Punto. If he can't do that yet (a) the Twins are in trouble and (b) he should start the year in the minors. You are absolutely right that Bartlett is a weak comp. He didn't have anything left to prove in AAA. Casilla probably does.

but, ick. this is not the 1960s. there is no excuse for a Major League club to continue to start a guy flirting with a -30 VORP season, no matter how "spectacular" his defense is alleged to be.

beth said...

If I didn't comment yesterday, let me do so now: I agree with what you're saying.

We're paying Punto anyway; let's see where they are in spring. Looking at September performances, I'd take Punto on the field and Casilla developing in AAA. Things should be re-evaluated in Spring Training, and if it's still Punto over Casilla, eyes can be kept on the situation throughout the year.

Anonymous said...

I don't disagree with what you are saying, Nick, but what you are saying is contrary to the 'tool. He's going to play Nick Punto come Hell or high water. His bat has been a little better, so he was able to get two hits last night (and make two outs on the base paths). I think it's pretty clear what Punto brings and playing him in September isn't going to change that. On the other hand, throwing Casilla out there for the next two weeks could give the staff a chance to work with him, identify his weaknesses. A trip to winter ball might give him a chance, armed with the knowledge of the major league staff, to make some improvements.

But, no. There will be none of that. So, when Casilla comes to spring training with the same shortcomings, everyone can say, see, Nick Punto really is the best option. That is not to say that Casilla will magically improve over the winter, but given that Punto is likely going to be a sub-replacement level player for the rest of his career, investing 15 games in Casilla at this point would seem to be a smart investment. We're not dealing in smart here, though. We're dealing in Scrubini Fixation.

SBG

Anonymous said...

gardy's problem is that he becomes friends with too many of the players and stays loyal to his buddies. he's not giving casilla a chance because he wants to keep his man-crush punto happy. i guess it is ok to say that punto is ahead of casilla right now for next year's job. but saying that casilla makes too many mistakes and not giving him a chance to work through them when the games mean nothing is not going to help him. if gardy loves punto so much he can play him at 3rd one day, short the next and 2nd base on the third day. that way buscher and casilla can each get 2 of 3 games. gardy shouldn't let his personal feelings for his little buddy affect the lineup every day.

Anonymous said...

beth is gardy in disguise.

Nick N. said...

I don't disagree with what you are saying, Nick, but what you are saying is contrary to the 'tool. He's going to play Nick Punto come Hell or high water.

I'm just not getting that from reading his quotes. What Gardenhire specifically said in La Velle's article was this:

"Nothing’s a given. You have to go out and play. But if we were to start right now I would say Nick would have a head up on him, believe me there."

That sounds to me like he's at least trying to make it sound like he'll be keeping an open mind. Whether or not he actually will is a different matter entirely, and I certainly can't blame anyone for thinking that he won't, but I'm not going to venture there for the time being.

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