A surprise move put a huge damper on the mood in the clubhouse following the Mariners’ 2-0 win over the Twins Monday night. It was announced at the end of manager Lloyd McClendon’s postgame meeting with the media that backup catcher John Buck had been designated for assignment.
“These things are never fun,” McClendon said. “John Buck is a fine, fine baseball player. I think he has been great for this club, a wonderful individual. We have got a catcher at Triple-A that’s turning the corner and doing a pretty darn good job so we just felt it was time. We think that this move makes us a better club.”
Jesus Sucre is expected to be called up Tuesday.
Buck’s teammates were visibly shocked by the move. He was not only popular in the clubhouse but a team leader as well. Buck was brought in to help Mike Zunino in his development but Zunino said his reach went far beyond his position.
“He’s sort of been the glue,” Zunino said. “He sort of brought in the different personalities and meshed them together. He did a good job of being that vocal leader and bringing everyone together. Obviously we became the team we are in big part because of him and he sort of got us all to buy in that we are good enough to play and compete in this division, level, everything.”
Buck was one of the veterans who called and participated in the team meeting that was held before the game in April that snapped the Mariners’ eight game losing streak. Numerous players at the time said that his encouragement and message that they truly could compete had an impact on turning things around.
Others spoke in that meeting as well and there is no shortage of leadership on this team. This one will still sting. The players in the clubhouse Monday night clearly were not happy about the move, but it was a baseball move, most likely about defense. The page will have to be turned regardless of how unpopular the move may be.
As Buck exits, he leaves a huge impression on Zunino.
“I can’t put into words (what he has meant to me). Just personally from spring training on I don’t think I have stopped learning,” Zunino said. “He’s a guy that’s not afraid to share that wealth of knowledge that he has. It’s really helped me out and I am still going to use it every day, everything he has told me.
“I can’t thank him enough for what he has taught me.”