The Mets have had active off-seasons the last two years. Some of that activity has not been popular with the fan base, specifically allowing Jose Reyes to walk after the 2011 season, and trading R.A. Dickey after the 2012 season. In the Dickey trade, the Mets picked up four players, including super catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud, along with another solid prospect, pitcher Noah Syndergaard. Also coming back to New York in the Dickey deal was catcher, John Buck, who will be the Amazin’s opening day receiver this year. Buck was probably the least heralded of the four players the Mets obtained from Toronto, but at least in the immediate future, he may have a big impact.
Over nine major-league seasons (6 with Kansas City, 1 with Toronto, and 2 with the Marlins), Buck is .235 hitter, with 118 HRs and 423 RBI. His career OBP is .303, which makes our sabermetric friends cringe. However, Buck’s value to the Mets should transcend his pedestrian numbers. Buck brings knowledge to the Mets, knowledge of how to call a game, and work young pitchers through tough situations. Buck also brings a strong familiarity with the NL East, another resource into which the Mets’ young hurlers can tap.
When you listen to a John Buck interview, you immediately think that this man will be a big-league manager. This week, Buck was a guest on WFAN with Mike Francesa. Francesa asked him about Bobby Parnell as a closer. Buck responded that he felt Parnell could be a strong closer, but there were some things that would have to change. Buck indicated that Parnell’s fastball is rather straight. Yes, it can hit triple digits. But, it’s straight. Therefore, hitters can time it, and hit it. Buck added that in order for Parnell to be effective, he’ll need to throw his knuckle curve early in the count, to give hitters something else to think about. This will make Parnell’s fastball more effective, resulting in better success in the closer role. Sounds simple, right? But we all know that Parnell has struggled as a closer. Josh Thole, a converted catcher, probably was not able to make the suggestion above in the last few seasons. Maybe it was lack of insight, maybe it was a lack of credibility. However, now that veteran John Buck is handling the pitching staff, the Mets have every reason to expect incremental growth from Parnell, and the rest of the young pitchers.
In the Francesa interview, Buck, 32, was asked about his future with the Mets. Buck acknowledged that the imminent arrival of Travis d’Arnaud clouds Buck’s future with the team, but I have an alternate suggestion. Buck is the perfect profile of a backup catcher. He’s a veteran, he has power to make him valuable off the bench, and he can help nurture d’Arnaud into the starting role. Buck’s insights about pitching, and hitters in the NL East, can be invaluable to the developing Mets club. Here’s one vote for keeping John Buck around, not only for 2013, but also for the better years to come.