Considering that he was never supposed to fill a key role with the Twins, infielder Nick Punto took more grief that you'd expect during his seasons with the Twins. It may not have been the majority view, but it was a very, very loud minority that hooted and yelped about Punto's shortcomings. Much of the Punto hate was a stand-in or a complement to the bashing of former manager Ron Gardenhire, who was thought to rely on Punto for too much.
The shorthand view -- and probably an accurate one -- is that Punto was a good player to have on your team if he was going to get 200 at-bats in a season but his presence would be a symptom of larger problems if you needed him as a regular in the lineup.
On Thursday, Punto announced his retirement after 14 major league seasons, seven of which were spent with the Twins. He'd been acquired in a trade with Philadelphia before the 2004 season and, after leaving Minnesota, played for the Red Sox, Cardinals, Dodgers and Athletics. He was out of baseball last season and now isn't trying to come back.
Punto batted .248 in 2,707 plate appearances for the Twins, with a .323 on-base percentage and a .324 slugging percentage. His career numbers were .245/.323/.323, and he appeared in the postseason five times. (We lost count of one thing that set him apart from most players, a disproportionate number of head-first slides into first base.)
His memorable season with the Twins came in 2006, when the team finally released third baseman Tony Batista at midseason and gave Punto the starting job. He batted .290 with a .352 on-base percentage. That was the season when the Twins put together a spectacular second half before getting swept by Oakland in the American League Division Series. (Remember Torii Hunter's ill-considered dive in Game 2?)
On a Red Sox blog called Over the Monster, Punto was described this way: "Punto wasn't great at any one thing, but he did have versatility, and helped stretch the bench out beyond the players on it. Well, in theory, anyway: he was a disaster in Boston, hitting just .200/.301/.272 over 65 games."
We prefer this reaction to the news:
Nick Punto is, without question, a first ballot Hall of Scrappy Utility Guy Types Who Play Way Longer Than You Ever Thought They Would’ve-Er— Craig Calcaterra (@craigcalcaterra) February 18, 2016
And this one from RandBall's Stu, which is headlined "Nick Punto retires, plans to focus on sliding into more thing" and posted at Twinkie Town under "satire, irreverence and other humor."
Finally, we leave you with Punto's gaffe of gaffes, a play that cost the Twins any shot (however slim) during their 2009 ALDS against the Yankees. It's the play where Punto gets thrown out by Derek Jeter rounding third on an infield single to kill a potential eighth-inning rally.
This clip features the call of Yankees broadcaster John Sterling, who credits Jeter, "whose head is always in the game," and then former Twins broadcaster John Gordon, who pretty much loses it and yells: "GET BACK TO THIRD BASE! PUNTO IS OUT! OH MY! WHAT AN UNBELIEVABLE BONEHEAD BASERUNNING PLAY BY NICK PUNTO."
To the video:
Seriously, though, we prefer this one:
Thanks for (all) the memories, Shredder.