The Buck Stops Where?

It’s just the Mets luck.

John Buck, who was acquired from Toronto in the R.A. Dickey deal as a placeholder at catcher until prize prospect Travis D’Arnaud was ready to pop out of the oven and into the big leagues, is tearing it up in the early going.  Six homers and 19 ribbies in the first 10 games. Historic numbers, in fact. In the last 92 years, only Lou Gehrig, Chris Davis of the Orioles and some other guy I never heard of have as many as 19 RBI’s this early in the season. Amazingly, Davis accomplished that feat this month as well, which dilutes Buck’s accomplishment a tiny bit, I suppose, but still: Gehrig must be rolling in his grave thinking, “Who the heck are these guys? John Buck? Who the Buck is he??”

I’m thinking the same thing. On the one hand, I’m thrilled to see a guy who, although he was an All-Star not long ago and has displayed some pop in his bat, was clubbing the ball like his life depended on it. But he hit .192 last year, which for  a catcher over 30, is like receiving a diagnosis of an incurable and quickly advancing disease. So it’s hard to figure what’s gotten into John Buck. Hopefully, none of the funny stuff that a few former MVP’s were allegedly shopping for down in Florida. Let’s just say that’s he’s feeling good, and confident, and is one of those few guys who are in peak form this early in the season. He’s likely to turn cold as a penguin’s toes real soon. I don’t expect he will stay on pace for 100 HR’s and 300 RBI’s, however: as long as the specter of Travis D’Arnaud remains, which could be for  the next 2-3 months, Buck may play like his job depends on it. That is quite the motivation for a catcher who only has so many good years left.

So as I said, it’s just the Mets luck. They have a stud prospect at catcher on the way, and they may be in no hurry for his services. Meanwhile, they have three openings available in the outfield (unless you consider Lucas Duda, Marlon Byrd, Colin Cowgill, or Mike Baxter everyday players) and no relief down on the farm.

Now what if Buck continues to hit like Albert Pujols, or even half an Albert Pujols, while D’Arnaud proves he’s ready to punch his ticket to Citi Field?  Well, you can trade Buck at mid-season, but even if he’s still hitting the ball well, what can you pick up for an aging catcher who is a year removed from hitting below his weight? No blue chip prospects, but maybe a decent prospect or  a veteran who can add depth during the stretch run (don’t laugh!). Or perhaps Buck stays in the lineup a few days a week while you ease D’Arnaud in.  Or you move Buck to first and trade Ike Davis (hmmm . . . .), who once again has emerged from spring training looking dazed and confused. Or you move Buck to left field, where he can’t possibly be worse than Luca Duda.

So many possibilities — all of which may be moot if Buck returns to Earth in the next month or so. But it’s still early enough in the season to imagine the possibilities as John Buck  continues his unlikely assault on the triple crown.

Boy does that sound crazy.

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April 14, 2013 · 12:03 am

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