It’s April 9, 2013 and the Mets are 5-2, one game out of first place, and averaging over six runs per game. Read that again to let it soak in! This is unexpected to say the least. What’s more shocking however, is where the runs are coming from. David Wright has continued where his torrid pre-season and WBC play left off, batting .333 with five runs scored and four RBIs. Daniel Murphy has turned on the power switch clubbing two homers while hitting .308 and driving in six. Murph hit six homers total in 2012 and has a third of that just seven games in. Where did that come from? The resurgence of Marlon Byrd is also taking form as he has bounced back with some clutch hitting. This includes his first walk-off RBI in 2 full years as he singled home the winning runs on Sunday against the Marlins. This is all great stuff but none of it even compares to the beast-like show put on by journeyman John Buck.
Buck, who came over as insurance in the RA Dickey trade this winter is off to an insane start. He has homered three times and driven in a NL leading twelve RBIs. He is batting .375 and slugging .792. He even has a .370 on base percentage. He is absolutely en fuego. All this from a guy with a lifetime .236 batting average. There is no question he has been the most valuable offensive player on the Mets roster and maybe even the whole National League. There is nothing to suggest Buck can keep up this pace all season long but the Mets will ride it out as long as possible. He has always shown pop hitting 12+ homers in six years out of his nine season career but this is ridiculous. It is also a best case scenario for the Mets as they have the luxury of postponing d’ARNAUD’s MLB time clock with Buck as a run producing placeholder. If Buck stays hot through April and May it will allow the Mets to keep d’ARNAUD in Vegas until mid June dismissing his chance to become eligible for arbitration in 2015 as a Super2. More importantly, it will also provide the Mets a huge chip to throw into the trading pot when Travis arrives. While Buck may not be able to bring back a Wheeler or Syndergaard, if he can stay productive he may allow the Mets to find major league proven help for their outfield.
While impressive at the plate so far, it may be what he adds behind it that is even more important to the early success of the team. Through seven games the Mets have the league’s third best ERA at 2.29 while earning quality starts in six of those seven. Unlike last year with Josh Thole and company, John Buck has gained the trust of New York’s entire pitching staff with his big league experience, and they know they can lean on him to call the right pitches during certain points in a game. He also played the role of a mentor in Grapefruit league play to the young d’ARNAUD who sucked it all up like a sponge. The two were constantly together whether it was in the cages, warming up in the bullpen, or even greeting fans after practice sessions. Mets bench coach Bob Geren, a catcher in his own right, was very impressed with Buck’s professionalism.
“Usually in baseball you find one extreme or another,” Geren explained. “You’ll see situations where the veteran is more worried about himself than anyone else. Or, you have a veteran that will go out of his way to help another player. That is what we are experiencing here with John. That’s a wonderful situation to have as a coach. He’s been great so far.”
There is no question the man seen as an afterthought in the Dickey trade has made quite a splash this season. He has also forced many people to take a second look at a scrappy team that was not projected to garner much attention in 2013. The value of the Buck will continue to rise with each RBI John drives in and that just may be what’s needed to keep the Mets in this race.
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