In today's world full of new rising stars and celebrity sensations, when the initials "JB" are seen, no hesitation is expressed before the words "Justin Bieber" exit the mouth. However, when Marlins fans see the two letters J and B, they may instantly think of John Buck, a 2010 all-star catcher who is slumping because he is not hitting in the spacious Rogers Centre , many speculate. Looking beyond the teen pop sensation and creative-masked catcher, these initials also belong to another Marlins catcher, one who at this point in the year is becoming noticeably absent in the middle of the lineup.
John Baker, added to the middle of the Marlins' lineup after arriving from Oakland, proved to be a successful hitter and a team leader after having a decent start to the 2009 season. Towards the end of the season, Baker was in obvious pain, and learned that he had an injury that would require surgery that is usually performed on pitchers. During the offseason, Baker underwent Tommy John surgery. Baker said that he felt good following the operation, however this was strictly an incorrect hypothesis.
Baker missed all of the 2010 season, traveling with the team but not picking up a baseball in what he claimed was the "longest and most painful time of his baseball career". John arrived at 2011 spring training camp, hoping to at least start throwing. Baker's body disagreed with his mentality as he was unable to participate in any baseball related activities. Prior to opening day, Baker was placed on the 60 day disabled list.
John attempted to start catching and throwing again a few weeks ago, however his arm and upper body told him he needed to take it slowly. While Baker remains hopeful he will play in a few games this season, most odds are against it. One of those odds includes being the opening day catcher when the Marlins take the field for the first time in their brand new home in Little Havana. To some, this can be considered a very unrealistic goal considering the closest Baker got to being involved in a game this season was when he wrote an article giving his opinion on the Buster Posey-Scott Cousins play which many are still talking about.
Baker's presence when playing on a daily basis can be a bit overlooked. He is a left-handed six or seven hitter who will hit around .260 and drive in 70-80 RBIs while throwing out a decent percent of base stealers, one of the Marlins' primary issues in the catcher position the past few seasons. While Baker is in the lineup against right handed starters (most of what the Fish see throughout the 162 game season), fellow catcher John Buck would be on the bench waiting for his turn against a lefty either late in the game or in a start against a left hander.
All veteran manager Jack McKeon can do is give backup catcher Brett Hayes a shot behind the plate more than the current one game a week. Buck is clearly not his 2010 self, however Hayes' batting average is over .300 and he has proven he can have good at bats each and every time he walks up to the plate. For now, all that can be done is watching the platoon job of John Buck (90% of the playing time) and Brett Hayes (10% of the playing time) until John Baker can prove to be healthy again and neil down to catch the first pitch thrown by Josh Johnson in 2012 in the well advertised new Florida Marlins ballpark.