Friday, February 19, 2016

Secretly, It's Nick Punto's World

Punti, the plural of Punto
Nick Punto retired today, and you will be forgiven for (a) thinking that already happened, or (b) not knowing who he was.

But his career is educational on a lot of levels, so let's get into it.

Punto was a 14-year MLB veteran who played all over the infield. Having last played in 2014 for the all-in A's, he's now 38, and had the kind of career that you only really see in baseball, where a guy who can do a lot of things winds up filling a pension over six teams. He did that while only playing more than 135 games in a season once, or ever providing all that much tangible value. Punto never hit .300, never had more than four homers in a year, never stole 20 bases or scored 75 runs, and so on, and so on, and yet he just kept getting run. Not even on bad teams, even, with years in his '30s for the Cardinals, Red Sox and Dodgers, plus he leaves with a ring thanks to 15 playoff games (from a career total of 28) for the 2011 Cards. That's the team that outslugged the Rangers for the crown, though heaven knows that Punto didn't add much to the carnage by going 6 for 35 for the post-season.

So why did he stick around for so long, and make over $23 million, 8.5 of that after he turned 34? Well, the Dodgers are special people, really, and the Twins seemed to think that paying and playing him like a regular would magically make him one, but it's also a testament to what can happen if you just are a decent guy who can do a lot of things. Punto played every position but catcher in his career, and did so to a reasonable degree of proficiency, with most of that time at 2B, 3B and SS. The idea that he DH'd some is low comedy, but things happen in long seasons, and the status of offense in this era of baseball is that a guy with a career OPS of .646 -- evenly split between on-base and slugging, a neat but pointless trick -- can play anywhere. He probably shouldn't, but it's not as if he really looked like he didn't belong.

And his career, more than anything else, is why parents can't really hope for more in life for their athletic boys than a career in baseball. Punto retires in his late 30s, with a long and slow drip of revenue that's probably left him set for life, but without the sudden extreme rush of wealth that destroys so many lives. He was never a big enough star to attract or need a posse, and was never so good as to forget to bank that per diem, dammit. Unlike football players, the chance that he's got a debilitating medical condition isn't a damn near certainty, and unlike basketball players, he's not freakishly sized and having to answer questions about that for the rest of his days. He could likely live anywhere now and do anything, without ever causing anyone to bat an eye at him or his family. He worked for his money, so he doesn't have that lottery winner misery of crippling self-esteem, but he also has to know, on some level, how incredibly lucky he was. Given how many teams employed and paid him, and how many positions he played, he could probably get a bench job, but if not, it's not as if the game used him up and spat him out, or left him wondering What Might Have Been. He's got a ring and 8 figures of lifetime earnings, and you've probably never met a guy in your life who's had it better. Or maybe ever will.

Plus, well, his name is just a fun thing to say. Pooooon toe! Rex Ryan's favorite if you are feeling frisky, the kind of name that's never attached to a superstar. Instead, dude gets to retire three to four decades before everyone else, play golf at Pebble Beach (according to his Twitter feed), and have fans and friends from coast to coast.

Oh, and his wife and kids are beautiful, too. See the evidence above.

So, who's got it better than Nick Punto?

No one, really. No one at all.

No comments:

Ads In This Size Rule