Underestimating Nick Punto


Apparently, he comes without warning.

With absolutely nothing to prepare ourselves for his arrival, the official Oakland Athletics twitter account announced that Nick Punto had agreed to terms on a one year, $2.75 mm contract for 2014, with a vesting option for 2015.

My first thought was that somebody did a decent job of creating a bogus, fake Athletics account and it had been inadvertently re-tweeted into my timeline. Nick Punto? I mean really? No way.

When the acquisition was confirmed by a flurry of beat writers and insiders, I really didn’t know how to react. One moment, I’m weighing thoughts of Oakland’s reported interest in Nelson Cruz–the next I’m researching Punto’s defensive metrics and trying to figure out how he fits in amongst the Athletics current surplus of infielders.

See, I have always perceived the play of Nick Punto as some type of universal Major League joke.

Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

In no way is that meant to be cruel, after all the man is a professional ballplayer. But over the course of a 13-season career he’s been front and center of some pretty weird, and infamous blooper-quality plays.

Here are some examples:

September 16th, 2013

Punto registers a clean single up the middle, and instead of leisurely jogging through the bag or taking a look at second, inexplicably opts for a headfirst dive. To his credit, he ran hard the whole way and never bothered to look up.

June 25, 2012

With a runner on first base and Punto at the plate, the diminutive hitter offered a checked swing on a pitch-out with a 1-0 count. That’s just something you don’t see everyday. Or every year. Or every decade. You get the point.

Then there are the playoff follies. Brace yourself, it isn’t pretty. You may remember Punto being picked off in Game 4 of this season’s NLCS. It was a back-breaker. Down by two in the seventh inning, Punto’s aggressive lead caught the attention of Cardinals reliever Carlos Martinez who quickly picked him off ending any potential of a Dodger rally.

What you may not remember, is that he has a long history of making inexcusable mistakes in postseason play. In 2009, immediately following a leadoff double, Punto incorrectly read an infield single by Denard Span and was thrown out rounding third base with no outs, in the seventh inning of a 2-1 game. In Game 2 of the 2011 World Series, Punto was bizarrely called out for running out of the baseline bringing an end to a Cardinal rally.

Nevertheless, Nick Punto is an Athletic. As our own Sean Davis detailed, Punto’s experience, defensive prowess, and versatility may yet pay dividends. One thing is certain, 2014 just became a whole lot more interesting.