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.