We’ll get to the NFL picks in just a second (Bears in OT?), but we have to acknowledge, first, the perfect storm created by yesterday’s Nick Punto signing (at least in the eyes of most Twins fans, if pesky Interweb message boards and comment sections can be arbiters of truth). The factors:
1) Punto is a scrappy infielder who, by most accounts, would be adored by Minnesota fans under other circumstances. But Twins fans, we think, have simply grown tired of what he can provide. They look at a ceiling of .290ish hitting and solid defense and say, “Meh.” He is one of those players who is remembered for what he can’t do rather than what he can do (see Jones, Jacque).
2) The money. $8.5 million over two years seems a little high, even if the market might say it’s reasonable. Could Matt Tolbert do the same thing for much less? Possibly.
3) Winter Meetings factor. Big names are changing teams. Talented players have been talked about as options for upgrades to the left side of the infield. And the Twins leave Vegas with the same old, same old. No tattoos. No 4 a.m. gambling stories. No “What Happens in Vegas …” moments. Just Punto. But he’s not just Punto now, he’s another symbol, to fans, for the perception that the Twins are cheap and unimaginative.
4) He’s being paid as a starter and asked to fill that role at SS. But most people who have watched the Twins in recent years will say some variation of, “I can stand Nick Punto three days a week, but after that he’s just not as effective.”
5) The Bill Smith factor. There might be more confidence right now in the economy than the Twins’ GM. Of course, if he can wrangle a third baseman and bullpen help via a trade involving an outfielder, much will be forgiven. It remains to be seen whether last winter made him so hesitant that next year’s team will essentially mirror the 2008 club. To us, standing pat would be more dangerous than rolling the dice on a deal to fill obvious holes. Even if last year exceeded expectations, 2006 to 2007 should be a gentle reminder that things can fall apart in a hurry.
NFL picks (winners in bold)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens
Denver Broncos at Carolina Panthers
Washington Redskins at Cincinnati Bengals
Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans
Detroit Lions at Indianapolis Colts
Green Bay Packers at Jacksonville Jaguars
San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs
San Francisco 49ers at Miami Dolphins
Buffalo Bills at N.Y. Jets
Seattle Seahawks at St. Louis Rams
Minnesota Vikings at Arizona Cardinals
New England Patriots at Oakland Raiders
N.Y. Giants at Dallas Cowboys
Cleveland Browns at Philadelphia Eagles
Fasola-link! How to overcome procrastination. [If you are putting this off until later, you have already earned a FAIL].