- “It’s crazy, right?” he told me via phone after a workout session with Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long in Arizona. “I have no idea what’s going on. You tell me.”
I couldn’t. Because anyone who’s followed the team knows only this about the strange situation: The A’s, who buried Buck like an old bone shortly after he asked to rest a tweaked oblique in Texas last May, have continued to pile dirt on him all winter.
He is the invisible outfielder.
He’s less than an afterthought to the A’s, who have sent message after unflattering message to Buck over the past eight months.
And if you don’t think there’s a market for Buck, who hasn’t played in more than 38 games or batted higher than .226 since his strong rookie season in 2007, you’re wrong.
Long’s Yankees would certainly take him off Oakland’s hands, and it’s no secret that Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu is a huge Buck backer. Several teams have talked to the A’s about trading for Buck, only to be told he isn’t available.
Why won’t the A’s move him? General manager Billy Beane points to the need for depth, and he’s got a point. The A’s of recent vintage have lost players to injury at a pace that makes the Warriors look downright hearty of health.
But being little more than an insurance policy, a fifth outfielder, is not the way Buck, who turned 26 in November, wants to spend what should be the prime of a once-promising career.
“Anywhere I go is probably going to be a better situation than what it looks like I have here,” he said. “Especially based on what they’ve done in the offseason, after what happened last season.”
You absolutely cannot blame Buck for wanting out. After an excellent half-season in 2007, the A's gave him just 172 plate appearances in 2008 and 115 in 2009.
On the other hand, we might turn that around and suggest that Buck earned only 172 plate appearances in 2008 and 115 in 2009. When Buck did play in 2008, he didn't hit. When he did play in 2009, he hit even less. No, it's not fair to a judge a player on 287 plate appearances.
Here's the thing, though: It wasn't just in the majors that he didn't hit. In 45 games with Sacramento in 2008, Buck hit two home runs. In 62 games with Sacramento in 2009, Buck hit five home runs. Granted, Buck's never been a big power guy in the minors, but that's sort of a problem, isn't it? If you're a right fielder without much speed or power, what are you, exactly? The one thing Buck always did well in the minors -- before 2008, anyway -- was hit for a good average, which of course did wonders for his on-base percentage.
But he's not been doing that lately, either. So again I'll ask, what is he, exactly? He seems to me a fourth or fifth outfielder who has trouble staying healthy; not exactly a hot commodity in the major leagues these days.
I sympathize with Buck. I'd like to see him get another real shot. But the way it usually works is, you have to earn your shot. And it's been a while since he's done that.
(Slap of the Glove to BTF's Newsstand)