Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Who Doesn't Like LEN3?

My editor's post Killing the Messenger is worth a read. It deals with Ron Gardenhire's announcement that Nick Punto will be the starting second baseman next season in light of Alexi Cassila's non-development this season.

It's hard for any outsider to assess the job a manager does motivating his team. If Gardenhire's announcement is a motivational ploy to keep Cassila focused this off-season, I give the Twins' skipper the benefit of the doubt. I really hope this is the case, because there is absolutely no other reason to make this announcement in September. Coming from the man that has turned the number two spot in the Twins' order into a black hole of Big Bang magnitude, it does raise doubts.

If it's not a motivational ploy, this is why smart baseball writers like Christina Kahrl knock the Twins for hosing the small things. This level of complacency from a team that's often in contention is unacceptable. It's hard to see how Punto could be worse next year, but the Twins brass should be ashamed of themselves if they enter spring training with him as the clear Plan A at second base. It's enough to make fans pine for the days of Augie Ojeda (hey, he's managed to put up a positive VORP for the Snakes this season).

American league second basemen as a whole have hit .284/.340/.417 this season. Punto has a very, very long way to go before he's worthy of a starting job even with the reduced offensive expectations in moving from third to second base. It's important to remember that Nick Punto's "good" season wasn't really good. It was average. In 2006 he hit .290/.352/.373, which means he got on base a tiny bit more than second baseman as a whole and hit for a little less power.

The Twins have a hole at second base and they've got more than seven months to find a creative solution. It's a situation that requires patience from fans. I have to assume Gardenhire's comments are to light a fire under Cassila, so let's not be too hasty and take Gardenhire's words at face value. But eff him, Smith and the horses they rode in on if nothing changes between now and April.

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