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.