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.