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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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This Week in Buck Ball

It’s the golden hour for John Buck right now, that fleeting interregnum when the journeyman is master craftsman. It is a time to be savored.

John Buck drives in nine runs in five games, four of them in his fifth game to propel the Mets to a Saturday victory.

John Buck draws a roughing the catcher penalty the likes of which struck everybody as completely novel.

John Buck offers pitchers wise counsel, teammates unyielding support and every fanny in sight a manly slap for a job well done.

All things considered, John Buck is the best Met we’ve seen this year until he’s not — which is swell for now and whatever it is for later.

Let’s enjoy the swell. Let’s enjoy every professional at-bat that produces all manner of RBI, from two-run double to two sac flies against the Marlins to move the Mets back above .500 and Buck to the front of the National League ribeye steak line. We have a hitter who leads the league in something. Didn’t see that coming…certainly didn’t see it coming from the same place that fancy mask and innovative glove gear emanated.

I’m loving the unexpected offense, of course. I’m loving whatever it is Buck has whispered in the ears of Matt Harvey, Dillon Gee, Jeremy Hefner and Jonathon Niese twice now to make the Mets’ starters among the stingiest in captivity. I’m loving the role of super-involved veteran this guy seems to have been born to play. After Daniel Murphy scored Saturday, who delivered the heartiest congratulations? After Jordany Valdespin was whacked in the elbow and immediately thereafter picked off Friday, who checked in with him pronto? After an underwhelming carousel of callow and crumbling catchers left home plate virtually unmanned these past couple of seasons, who’s so present that you can’t miss him?

John Buck. That’s who.

It’s appropriate that Buck was at the heart of the turning-point play Saturday and that he was there by dint of simply doing his job. This was after Niese was removed following his usual yeoman six innings. Juan Pierre was on second (where he’s been, against the Mets, for about a decade) with two out in the seventh, the Marlins down by one. Josh Edgin came in to face Greg Dobbs, which had losing battle written all over it, given that Dobbs is Dobbs and it doesn’t really matter who Edgin is. Sure enough, Dobbs was Dobbs, singling hard to right. There wasn’t going to be a play at the plate, but Pierre wasn’t taking any chances. He slid hard into Buck with the tying run. Thing is, Buck wasn’t at the plate, but about ten feet beyond it hailing down Mike Baxter’s off-line throw

Do you remember Mark Gastineau barreling into Bernie Kosar in an ill-fated Jets playoff game 26 years ago? Well, Buck equaled Kosar here and Jim Joyce threw a flag. Pierre scored, there was no doubt about that, but Dobbs, who did nothing worse than torture another Mets reliever, was out on runner’s interference. The runner in this case was Pierre — 2013’s version of Gastineau.

Juan’s momentum carried him into John (who was noble enough to lend his opponent a hand as both were getting to their feet), but the Marlins’ momentum evaporated on the spot. Edgin wriggled out of the inning with no earned runs, but it was such a freakish escape that when the Mets took the lead in the bottom of the seventh on Murphy’s triple, Edgin’s pitcher-of-record status cut no ice with the official scorer, who credited what eventually became the 7-3 Mets win to Brandon Lyon.

Feels like it should have gone to Buck, who’s made a great case for MVP of the five-game season. I watched him homer Wednesday while guiding Harvey to new heights; I watched him homer again Thursday after bringing Gee along nicely. Now I’ve had a chance to follow him on TV and it’s just as impressive seeing him do the little things as it is the big ones. Best of all, he hasn’t even yet taken on his largest task, which will be to show Travis d’Arnaud the big league ropes and then shed himself of all ego as he reverts to caddying for the heir apparent. By then, Buck probably won’t be leading the league in anything that shows up in the box score and we’ll likely be more relieved than disappointed that John isn’t catching for the Mets every day.

But for now, it’s April, and John Buck is a helluva Met. Not a damn thing wrong with that.

Tune in to WLIE 540-AM on Long Island or log on to SportsTalkNY Live Sunday night at 7 when I join Mark Rosenman and AJ Carter to discuss The Happiest Recap book series and all matters Metropolitan. If you’d like a personally inscribed copy of the first volume of this one-of-a-kind trip through fifty years of New York Mets history, you’ll make my sister and her husband very happy if you purchase it through their eBay store.

10 comments to This Week in Buck Ball

  • Scott M.

    First of all – “Juan Pierre was on second (where he’s been, against the Mets, for about a decade)” – is great stuff. Greg, you’re in mid-season form already!

    Second of all, John Buck – (What a name. It’s like a Paul Bunyan-esque, lumberjack name mixed with a porn star name) – has assumed the role of unheralded new Met I’m rooting for. It was Scott Rice a day before Opening Day, then Cowgill hours after Opening Day but as Opening Week comes to a close – Buck has taken over.

    It’s been an enjoyable ride so far, watching the team form early on. Miami’s got their young pitching phenom going today – seems like a game where our Buck-led grittiness can overcome any new-pitcher flash to take the rubber game, no?

  • 9th string catcher

    Guy’s got a total chip on his shoulder – love that. A great catcher is the field general and clubhouse leader, something the Mets havent had in a long time. I hope he can be there for the pitching staff even if the offense goes south.

  • FL Met Fan Rich

    Great observation about someone who does a lot of little things that don’t show up in the box score.

    Completely unexpected hitting from someone who seem to be a throw in in that trade.

  • I guess then jury’s still out on whether Buck is a keeper, or just this year’s version of Rod Barajas.

    http://doublegsports.com/2013/04/07/can-buck-stop-mets-catching-woes/

    • Guy, it took me all the restraint I could muster to not invoke Barajas or Rick Cerone or (different position) Ken Henderson among those Mets who started fast but didn’t last. I mean we know it’s not going to last, but I figure let’s enjoy Buck for what he is, on and (apparently) off the field.

      Not that Barajas isn’t a reasonable analogy, mind you.

  • This is an excellent post, attending equally well to both the enjoyment of Buck’s presently terrific play and the apparently imminent reality of Buck’s need to “shed himself of all ego” as he makes way for d’Arnaud.

  • I attended all four Las Vegas 51’s games this weekend in Sacramento. (It was really hard to start a “Let’s Go Fifty Ones” chant) Travis d’Arnaud did not play today (sunday) but is poised to head to New York very soon. He just looks like a leader on the field, meeting pitchers halfway on their walk to the dugout at the end of innings, offering advice and encouragement. Hits the heck out of the ball too.
    Buck has been impressive in the Mets first two series, even more so as Dickey struggled in his first two starts. Yet Syndergaard had an impressive first start in St. Lucie and d’Arnaud has looked good behind and at the plate so far in these early games. Dickey may be responsible for more Mets wins for years to come than he will pitching in Toronto.
    (I’m going to see Wheeler throw again Tuesday in Fresno)

  • open the gates

    So John Buck is a great clubhouse-leader, team-first type guy, works well with pitchers, plays hard, will have an occasional good run with the bat, fields his position well, and doesn’t live on his ego.

    Sounds like the uber-ideal backup catcher to me.

    Which makes me happy in a hopeful kinda way. Because it indicates to me that Sandy Alderson possibly has a real game plan for the Mets, and now that most of the big contracts are gone, is starting to assemble the pieces.

    We’ve got some good young pitching up, some more coming. We have (by all reports) an amazing young catcher to guide them who is but a whisker away from the majors. And we’re starting to see the veteran clubhouse-leader hard-nosed types here to help the youngsters. Guys like Buck, Cowgill and LaTroy Hawkins to join David Wright in that department.

    It’s still a work in progress (see: outfield), but at least there seems to be a plan. And maybe it’ll work. If not this year, then not too far down the road.

  • […] stress again: I’ll accept the victory on behalf of the New York Mets. I’ll thank John Buck for continuing his MVP campaign, Daniel Murphy for stoking the hit-maker machinery behind the popular score and, most of all, Matt […]