John Buck, formerly of the Seattle Mariners, did what any good leader is supposed to do. The Taylorsville High product took a guy named Mike Zunino under his wing, taught Zunino how to be a big league catcher who can hit well and Zunino reportedly learned fast.
So fast, as a matter of fact, that Buck--who caught 27 games this season--is now out of a job in Seattle. The knee-jerk reaction would be to blame everyone but Buck for this supposed transgression--but the truth is, Beck was just doing his job teaching Zunino.
Buck was supposed to take the young Zunino under his wing and he did just that. But did Buck's involvement in Zunino's career lead to a drop in production? Where do you draw the line if you're a Major League Baseball veteran? That's the $500,000 question--the guaranteed amount of money Buck collected from a one-year, $1 million contract the Mariners paid for the 34-year-old.
Perhaps Mariners brass felt that, hey, they've already paid this guy a good sum of money. But was it hush money? Or, as the Mariners might argue, was Buck's career riding off into the sunset even before he tutored Zunino? That's a tough one. Buck hasn't hit over .227 in any season since his 2009 All-Star season with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Even Zunino admits that Buck was a great help to his fledgling career--but a measly 500 K? That's precisely what the M's paid Zunino this season so in hindsight, you can see where the club doesn't see anything wrong with the amount of money it paid Buck.
One Seattle-area reporter went so far to say that Buck--who hit .226 in 27 games before he was released by Seattle--was probably at the end of the line, anyway. He gave Buck a letter grade of F at the All-Star Break, but changed it to a D based on the tutelage Buck had provided to Zunino, who is now the M's starting catcher.
"Mike Zunino says that he never stopped learning from John Buck from the moment the two first interacted, and I think at this point it’s entirely clear that John Buck did a lot to teach Mike Zunino to hit like John Buck," Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter Jeff Sullivan said on Wednesday, July 16 about the situation.
Prior to playing in Seattle, Buck had enjoyed a five-year run with four different teams. (Toronto, Miami, New York and Pittsburgh) But at the end of his run in Pittsburgh, something strange happened. Buck found himself becoming the backup.
That discovery precipitated a move to Seattle--where apparently, lightning struck twice and Buck again found himself on the outside looking in. He signed the $1 million deal with the M's--and now, he's probably wondering which team, if any, will want his services.
Whether or not Buck finds another Major League Baseball team in need of his experience and his tutelage, Buck's cautionary tale will probably make any veteran take pause and wonder if it's wise for them to help a young ballplayer--especially if it means it might mark an end to their career.