When the Mets traded R.A. Dickey to Toronto, the Blue Jays forced the Mets to take John Buck as part of the deal. Buck and Dickey make roughly the same money in 2013 (around $6 million), and the Jays did not want to take on any more salary. So the Mets took Buck. It is still early, obviously, but so far, he is looking like more than a throw-in.
Buck hit his second home run of the season on Thursday. To explain what a big deal that is, consider this: last year the Mets got just five homers out of their light-hitting catching corps. Overall Buck is six-for-12 for a robust .500 average and he has five RBIs.
Nothing much was really expected of John Buck coming into 2013. The last two seasons he hit just .192 and .227, respectively, striking out more than 100 times each season. He did show some pop, hitting 12 and 16 home runs. Given the numbers, critics, including this blog, figured Buck would be a black hole in the lineup from which an occasional home run would emerge. He has been much more than that.
“Last year I was hard on myself offensively,” Buck said. “But I think I got better defensively… All those catching coaches that told you, ‘It’s about defense, it’s about defense’ — that kind of got put to the test last year. I think what I got out of last year was being a lot more mentally tough and take what I’m given and not try so hard.”
Regardless of how well Buck plays, everybody knows, including Buck himself, that is he just a placeholder for Travis d’Arnaud. At the worst, Buck could hang around all season to show d’Arnaud the ropes. At best, John Buck continues to play well enough that the Mets can trade him at the deadline and get another piece for their future.
Either way, it is nice to see a catcher who can hit wearing a Mets uniform. It’s been quite a while.