The other guy: Punto surprised, disappointed by trade

The other guy: Punto surprised, disappointed by trade
August 28, 2012, 2:15 am
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DENVER -- When the nine-player deal between the Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers took place Friday, it was though Nick Punto was collateral damage.

In an effort to achieve financial flexibility and re-set their Clubhouse culture, the Red Sox shipped off high-salaried, big-name stars: Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Adrian Gonzalez.

And Punto.

Punto wasn't an issue the clubhouse; to the contrary, the Red Sox loved his attitude. And his contract -- two years for 3 million -- certainly wasn't crippling. But he was part of the deal anyway, filling the Dodgers' need for an experienced utility player in the infield.

So there was Punto, literally along for the ride when the Dodgers sent a private plane to Boston to transport the ex-Red Sox players to their new home in L.A.

"I was caught off guard," said Punto as the Dodgers began a three-game series against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. "My name somehow got attached."

Punto wasn't nearly as high profile as the other Sox players sent west and he had been a member of the Red Sox for only 4 12 months. Still, the disappointment was palpable.

"I always envisioned playing in Boston and winning a world championship in Boston," he said. "That's the part that stinks -- you get to play there for a year, not even a year, and it just didn't work out."

It's been like that almost from the beginning. Punto signed with the Sox in part because of the urging of Kevin Youkilis, a close friend. But Youkilis clashed with Bobby Valentine in April, was injured in May and traded by June.

Two months later, Punto followed him out of town, his stay brief and unsuccessful.

"It was just one of those years where it didn't work out," said Punto, shaking his head. "We had the talent to do it, but we just didn't perform. Which is tough. That's the city you want to win a world championship in. I heard that from many people."

Punto has heard speculation that the Sox failed this season because of a bad mix of personalities or a lack of focus, but he says the issue was more basic.

"It definitely wasn't what everybody thought it was," said Punto, "because that group of guys was awesome. We jelled, we got along. It's almost like the media wanted to portray that clubhouse as toxic, or not working out. But the 25 guys were always together. We just underperformed; that's the bottom line.

"Everybody has injuries. That's part of the game. But the people who were healthy, we all underperformed. That's it. There's not more to it than that. It was just one of those years. We had the talent to do it and it just didn't work out."

Punto described the last few days as "crazy...chaotic. I'm kind of meeting new faces and names and trying to put them all together.''

Disappointed though he may be, Punto also realizes that, given his game, he might be better suited for the National League, where double-switches and pinch-hitting are far more prevalent than in the A.L.

"Unless you're an everyday player or a DH, obviously, I think the National League fits everybody a little better," he said. "It's fun. You have to be ready to be in the game every day. I definitely enjoy National League baseball."