It’s official: Kyle Lohse, Nick Punto, and 23 other players that nobody cares about will represent the National League and the City of Saint Louis in the World Series. The only thing standing between these former Twins and a title is a ragtag group of Texans led by another Twin of yesteryear, Ron Washington.
After what seemed like six decades of battling his tail off for the Twins, Punto slid headfirst into free agency last offseason, and he landed safely in St. Louis. Some Twins fans were amused by his energy and kamikaze style of play, but his pitiful hitting prowess earned him as many detractors as supporters. For the 2011 Cards, Punto managed a .278/.388/.421 line that puts Tsuyoshi Nishioka‘s .226/.278/.249 to shame. And as usual, Punto was well above average in the field, sporting a 14.2 UZR/150 at second base and a 10.1 mark at shortstop. Perhaps the Twins would have been better off keeping him around. Then again, he missed a large portion of the season due to injury, so perhaps he was already with the 2011 Twins in spirit.
As helpful as Punto would’ve been for the Twins, Lohse might have been even more useful. The righty racked up 188.1 innings, which would have been second on the team to Carl Pavano and well ahead of any other pitcher. His 3.39 ERA and 14 wins would both have led the team and provided stability to a chaotic rotation. Lohse seems to have matured since his time in Minnesota. When he was here, he was infamous for bashing the door to the manager’s office with a baseball bat. If the newspapers are to be believed, he hasn’t done anything that harsh to his current manager Tony LaRussa – he just does impressions now. The Twins severed ties with Lohse back in 2006. He turned in underwhelming seasons in 2004 and 2005, finishing 9-13 each year and attaining an ugly 5.34 ERA in ’05. But he beat the Twins in salary arbitration both years. In 2006 he got off to a horrendous start (2-4, 8.92 ERA through May), lost his spot in the rotation, and was dealt to Cincinnati for a forgettable prospect. He has settled down noticeably with the Cardinals.
Ron Washington, who manned the middle infield for the Twins from 1981-1986, will be sitting in the Ranger dugout across the field from Lohse and Punto. Unfortunately, since it has been 25 years since Washington donned a Twins uni, he doesn’t have the same former Twin mystique that the other guys do. Equally unfortunate, I was but a lad of six year old when he left Minnesota, so I can’t recall much about his style of play. If you have any Washington stories, please tell them in the comments section below. Puckett’s Pond would benefit from your tales.
All signs point to Lohse and Punto being the heroes of the 2011 World Series. With Chris Carpenter pithing Game 1 and Edwin Jackson in Game 2, Lohse might start Game 3. That means he’d be on track to start Game 7, should the Series stretch that far. He’ll almost certainly throw two complete game shutouts and win the World Series MVP Award. In a gesture of sportsmanship, he’ll let Ron Gardenhire take a swing at his trophy with a bat. Punto won’t win the MVP, but he’ll start a few games and enter some others as a defensive replacement. I’m sure he’ll hit .350 with a couple of stolen bases, a surprise home run, and a couple of Mark Lemke-esque triples in clutch situations.
For anyone who couldn’t tell, those predictions are facetious. But in the off chance that either one comes true, I reserve the right to brag about it.
How do you think Punto, Washington, and Lohse will do? Who’s going to win? Let us know in the comments section below!