Ruben Tejada at Second Base

Loyal MetsToday reader and occasional contributor Matt Himelfarb brought up a good point in the comments section today:

I know its’ not really relevant to the outcome, but after Jerry made a double switch replacing Castillo with Tejada- i think around the eighth inning- why did Cora remain at short while Tejada played second? The Mets would have been far better off defensively. Tejada played short most if not all of spring training, and has been a shortstop his entire minor league career. The only rationale I can see is the Mets plan on playing Tejada at second when he returns to Buffalo.

It may seem a small detail, but as we’ve been saying here for nearly five years, it’s often the little things that win and lose ballgames. While the move wasn’t relevant in last night’s game, the point is, it could have been.

Maybe Jerry Manuel was overprotecting (overthinking?) the youngster, believing that he’d be better off making his MLB debut at a position with presumably less responsibility. We did, after all, see Jennry Mejia with the jitters on the mound earlier in the evening. But I’m not sure that explanation flies; wouldn’t a player with nervous excitement be even MORE nervous playing a position that is somewhat foreign to him? As Matt points out, shortstop is where Tejada has played most of his life, and is most comfortable.

Of course, to agree with Matt’s argument you have to also buy into the spring-long hype spun by Mets officials insisting that Tejada is the best defensive shortstop in the organization (after Jose Reyes), and is ready for MLB duty. But what they say and what they believe could be two different things. Tejada may be the best-skilled shortstop, but that doesn’t necessarily make him the best performer. There’s no doubt that Tejada has a few yards’ range on Alex Cora and Russ Adams, but we have no idea whether that will translate to outs. Getting to the ball is only one-third of the equation; you then have to take the ball out of the glove and make a strong, accurate throw to first (or second) base to complete the out. And considering Tejada’s high error totals the past two years (51 in 250 games), it’s safe to say he’s still raw and “rough around the edges”.

Considering that rawness, you can’t blame Jerry Manuel for having reservations about putting Tejada at shortstop in the late innings of a tie ballgame. But you can ask why, then, is Tejada with the big club right now, when he should be down in AA further honing his craft?

Or, if as Matt suggests, the Mets do indeed see Tejada as a second baseman, then again, why is he cutting his teeth at the big league level? Moreover, why were competent and reliable if underwhelming veterans such as Russ Adams let go?

Maybe I’m making a mountain out of a mole hill … but, these “little” things have been piling up for years, and when you add them all up, you have to believe they’ve had something to do with the Mets’ failure to make the postseason three years running.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Andrew Vazzano April 8, 2010 at 11:11 am
    Can’t forget about Reese Havens. The Mets could have two talented 2B in their system if they use Tejada there.

    If they’re smart, they sign Reyes longterm come next year and can have cheap second basemen once Castillo is gone.

  2. Mike April 8, 2010 at 12:03 pm
    Havens is still more than a year away though. He only recently shifted to 2nd base for good but will start in AA where he needs to prove he can stay healthy and hit for average. No doubt that he can hit for power but he has work to do. He may be the Ike Davis of next year’s camp though, which is exciting. If Castillo is still on the team next year he will be safe until mid season the earliest. that leaves Tejada for what role exactly? He is a utility middle infielder that will have a few nice seasons after he grows up. I have no problems with that, this team needs guys like him.
  3. Alpha April 8, 2010 at 1:03 pm
    Mayb Manuel thinks Cora is a better shortstop than castillo is a second baseman, and so the best overall defensive setup was Cora at short and tejada at 2nd,

    but I think I’m giving Manuel too much credit, he dropped the ball and was lucky enuff it didn’t hurt him…yet

  4. Mike April 8, 2010 at 1:07 pm
    Alpha, I think the point was to move Cora to 2nd and have Tejada at SS and Cora at 2nd.