If Ruben Tejada is the Answer, What was the Question?

I wonder if Ruben Tejada did a little dance when news of Wilmer Flores’ demotion to AAA was announced. I’ll bet Omar Quintanilla was happy as well. Barring a trade (yeah right), Tejada and Q will be respectively, the Mets’ opening day shortstop and understudy. Also demoted with Flores was Kirk Nieuwenhuis, meaning both Ike Davis and Lucas Duda are coming north as well. Not announced, but somewhat likely is that Juan Lagares, probably the best position player the Mets system has produced since David Wright, will rot away on the bench while Chris Young, the Mets Seven Million Dollar Mistake, patrols Centerfield.

After a winter of essentially discussing the re-arranging of the deck chairs on the Titanic, the Mets are trotting out a 25-man roster containing 21 players who received significant playing time during last year’s 74 win season. The Tejada saga is particularly galling. After openly criticizing him to agents and in the press, they then make it public that they had him shipped off to a Michigan fat camp in the dead of winter. He came to Spring Training a mental wreck and until recently, he had more errors than hits. Apparently, no one in the inner circle thought this through, since the alternatives are a 31-year old minor leaguer or a veteran journeyman with a negative WAR for his career. It seems unfair to subject Tejada to what is coming. My sense is that he was never much more than a utility player that the league has adjusted to. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him booed out of New York and playing in an independent league in a few years. Meanwhile Flores, who the Mets signed as a 16-year old shortstop phenom, was labeled by scouts as lacking the range to be successful at that position. So he started an odyssey around the infield that lasted a few years. Now, he is sent down to Las Vegas for a crash course at, wait for it… shortstop. Mind boggling.

At the risk of sounding proletarian, I am not comfortable rooting for players to fail. As the father of a Little Leaguer who aspires to being more, I have witnessed the hard work, sacrifice and struggle that it takes to be a successful baseball player. What is easier to root against are the “suits,” those behind the scenes (and sometimes not behind the scenes) types who control the direction of the team. And when one of those suits is a blue-eyed child of fortune, it becomes even easier.

I would have guessed that the level of anxiety among the Mets’ brain trust would have risen to somewhere in the vicinity of panic by now. The offense, bullpen and bench look terrible. The sole young gun in the rotation has been shaky and the top lefty has had two injury scares. All of this is on GM Sandy Alderson and the Wilpons. Every player on the roster is one of their guys. All of the excuses are gone: there are no more Omar Minaya-era contracts to moan about and no new injuries that have derailed their best laid plans. Instead, Alderson makes a crazy comment about winning 90 games.

As one of this board’s resident iconoclasts, I do tend to be cynical about the Mets, so my expectation is that by Memorial Day, the wheels will already have come off the wagon. What I find more discouraging is when their GM makes a ridiculous statement about 90 wins this year (was he including Spring Training and “B” Squad games in that total?) and it barely makes a ripple. Either the fanbase is as delusional as Alderson and the Wilpons or maybe to paraphrase Alderson’s infamous quip from last year: “What fanbase?”

Last place seems much more probable than a 90-win season. A bad start (also likely) could raise the national ridicule of the Mets to early 1990’s levels. That might be the best thing about the 2014 season. As fans, we lack the power to impact the results on the field, so I think the empty seats and the scorn of the hyenas in the press corps will be the best measure of revenge we can get. Alderson and the Wilpons deserve every bit of it.

A Mets fan since 1971, Dan spent many summer nights of his childhood watching the Mets on WOR Channel Nine, which his Allentown, PA cable company carried. Dan was present at Game 7 of the 1986 World Series and the Todd Pratt Walkoff Game in 1999. He is also the proud owner of two Shea Stadium seats. Professionally, Dan is a Marketing Communications Coordinator. He is married, lives in Bethlehem PA and has a 10-year-old son who unfortunately roots for the Phillies.
  1. david March 25, 2014 at 9:11 pm
    Thanks Joe, I have been holding back ripping the Mets for their handling of Flores and appreciate you airing that particular grievance. You could have added that they moved him to 3b b/c he was going to be the next Miggy. 2 problems with that are David Wright and they need new body projections, if that is what they base their decisions upon. Finally and for good complaining, both Duda and Davis make the roster – so much for all the off-season talk about the open competition. I guess its what you do when both players ‘lose’ the competition???
    • Joe Janish March 27, 2014 at 12:46 am
      David, FYI this great post was written by Dan, not me.Though, Dan and I seem to be on the same wavelength and I wish I could take credit for it!
  2. argonbunnies March 25, 2014 at 10:32 pm
    The Mets are much more likely to lose 100 than win 90, as every betting man knows. Perhaps some sort of public wager to this effect would be a nice way of shaming the brass, and alerting Bud’s successor that there’s an issue in Queens.

    Poor Tejada. I agree with your assessment — he’s a limited player, who excited everyone by holding his own at an extremely young age, and then the organization got greedy and asked him to be someone he had no chance of being. At this point I think a trade to a team who needs a utility middle infielder would do the Mets and Ruben a world of good.

    Give Seratelli the SS job — he’s probably not MLB caliber, but he’s a good story and plays with energy. We should be able to enjoy him the way the Jays enjoyed Kawasaki before his limits began to weigh on them.

    As for Lagares, I’m sure he’ll lose plenty of ABs, but I don’t think the Mets are quite dumb enough to play too many innings without him in CF. Maybe he can sub in after EY’s 2nd AB or something. I guess we’ll see.

    I’ll balance out that optimistic note by predicting that Niese misses most of the season. These injury “scares” have revealed problems which the Mets are not going to correct, and which will eventually do Niese irreparable harm. Shoulda traded him after 2012 for Gose and Stroman. Once Wheeler, Niese, Mejia and Colon are all on the DL, we’ll have to hope Gee can beat other teams’ aces and Matsuzaka finds a time machine.

    At least we have some hard-throwing relievers with no control! No other organization has that, right?

  3. argonbunnies March 25, 2014 at 10:51 pm
    The Mets are much more likely to lose 100 than win 90. Perhaps some sort of public endeavor to put money on this would be a nice way of shaming the brass, and alerting Bud’s successor that there’s an issue in Queens.

    Poor Tejada. I agree with your assessment — he’s a limited player, who excited everyone by holding his own at an extremely young age, and then the organization got greedy and asked him to be someone he had no chance of being. At this point I think a trade to a team who needs a utility middle infielder would do the Mets and Ruben a world of good.

    Give Seratelli the SS job — he’s probably not MLB caliber, but he’s a good story and plays with energy. We should be able to enjoy him the way the Jays enjoyed Kawasaki before his limits began to weigh on them.

    As for Lagares, I’m sure he’ll lose plenty of ABs, but I don’t think the Mets are quite dumb enough to play too many innings without him in CF. Maybe he can sub in after EY’s 2nd AB or something. I guess we’ll see.

    I’ll balance out that optimistic note by predicting that Niese misses most of the season. These injury “scares” have revealed problems which the Mets are not going to correct, and which will eventually do Niese irreparable harm. Shoulda traded him after 2012 for Gose and Stroman. Once Wheeler, Niese, Mejia and Colon are all on the DL, we’ll have to hope Gee can beat other teams’ aces and Matsuzaka finds a time machine.

    At least we have some hard-throwing relievers with no control! No other organization has that, right?

  4. NormE March 26, 2014 at 12:47 am
    Good job, Dan C.
    How bad is it for the Mets? The truth is that baseball fans can’t wait for spring training to end and the real season to begin. This year I am dreading the start of the season.
    I think the trick is, knowing that your team is bad, to choose individual players to root for. Aside from David Wright, I’m going to be rooting for Gee and Lagares. When they come up, I’ll be rooting for Montero and Thor.
  5. Dan42 March 26, 2014 at 2:34 am
    At this point I’m kind of glad I opted out of the TV package that would get me SNY, at least now I can selectively browse MLBTV after the fact for anything that might be “interesting”.

    And I think you can add Granderson to the list of mistakes made this year, the only question being if age will catch up to him this year or next.

  6. Dan42 March 26, 2014 at 2:40 am
    Actually I’m almost tempted to sign up for the MilB TV packege,
    it might be be a lot less gut wrenching and more entertaining than watching the B5 (Big Boys Baseball Basement Battle).
    • DanS March 26, 2014 at 7:09 pm
      Wait until June on the MLB package. Prices drop!
      • Joe Janish March 27, 2014 at 12:47 am
        As will the price for Stephen Drew!

        Oh, never mind …

      • Dan42 March 27, 2014 at 4:27 am
        Usually do that, but this year I don’t have SNY so I splurged early to see some ST games, and watch other team’s travails as a bonus.
  7. DanB March 26, 2014 at 8:52 am
    Nobody blinked when Alderson said 90 wins like none of my friends believe me when I say I am winning MegaMillions. People might have gotten more interested if he said the Mets would win 80 games. The Tejada mess started when the Mets started believing their own declaration of him being true heir of Reyes. He was never a stand out in the minors. He had one good run of 82 games in the majors. Yet years later after Reyes left they still don’t have a qualified shortstop in their system. This is team building?
  8. DaveSchneck March 26, 2014 at 10:50 am
    DanC,
    Why don’t you tell us how you really feel? To follow up your title, the question is “Who is the Mets best backup SS?”.

    I have been all over Alderson this winter not getting a legit SS or 8th inning arm, and he still thinks he has this “free pass” indefinitely. Maybe with the clowns that own the team, but certainly not with the fan base. As Dan B mentioned, no one I knew even flinched at his 90 win statement, which is not good for the Mets. Anger is at least a response, but indifference is worse. Outside of the minority koolaid drinkers, Alderson has no street cred with the fan base.

    Regarding SS, I am disappointed that they aren’t starting Wilmer. What do they have to lose? Are they just waiting for Tejada to stink to promote Wilmer? Do they think he is going to “refine” his defensive skills playing SS in Vegas, whcih is like fielding on a parking lot? Second, this Ike/Duda situation needs to go away. The roster is flawed with two guys that can only play 1B, whether they call Duda an OF or not. Send Duda to Vegas and get a real bench OF.

    All that said, I do not have as much negativity as most of those above. For the first time that I can remember, AAA is loaded with guys that can be plugged into the MLB roster with expectations to succeed or even excel. Not only pitchers – Puello, Flores, Centeno even Den Dekker come to mind as potentially solid MLBers that can contribute. Even do nothing Sandy will have a hard time screwing this up if all stay healthy, but he still needs to find another impact player or two somewhere to propel this team into the 80-90 win range.

    • DanB March 26, 2014 at 12:00 pm
      Mets had a great AAA team last year, Dave. They played at CitiField since the Mets never replaced Reyes, Beltran, Dickey, etc.. with major league talent. My problem with the Mets’ minor league system is that it is still not good enough. Combine a 74 win team with owners who won’t spend cash and then you need a top three minor league system to win. I don’t just want competitive games in September. I want playoff games in October. Since the Mets are still in Las Vegas aone don’t invest in foreign free agents, I don’t believe the Mets are fully invested in their farm system.
      • DaveSchneck March 26, 2014 at 12:44 pm
        Dan,
        I do agree that the farm system needs to be even better, but it has improved. If someone in the starting 5 falter or get injured this season, they will call up a guy that I want to see in the big leagues. This hasn’t been the case in the recent past where we get the Schwindens and McHughs (no personal disrespect to either but not quite the potential to excite a fan base). I also agree 100% that selling this “improvement” of the system to the fan base is lame and just white noise. It doesn’t matter until it manifests itself in a better product in Flushing, which it has not. Still, there are more legit prospects than there were, both drafted and acquired by trade.
        • argonbunnies March 26, 2014 at 3:26 pm
          I agree on the arms, but den Dekker is likely no better than Nieuwenhuis, and Centeno’s upside is what, Mike Nickeas?

          Flores has been vastly over-hyped and reminds me of failed Dodgers prospect Joel Guzman more than anyone else — big kid, hits the ball hard, opened eyes at an early age, but didn’t walk and was stretched as an infielder. Guzman was about Wilmer’s age when his improvements tailed off and he started repeating AAA year after year.

          As for Puello, he struck out 8 times for every walk and posted mediocre power numbers before he started juicing. If he simply turned a corner at age 22, then we may have something, but if the ‘roids helped, then we don’t.

          I expect a good year in Vegas because the position players include many legit AAAA guys, but let’s not mistake those for guys we actually want to see on the Mets.

          I’m excited about Montero, but wouldn’t mind waiting on Syndergaard, who enters 2013 with only 11 career games above A ball.

        • argonbunnies March 26, 2014 at 3:27 pm
          oops, I meant 2014, not 2013
        • DaveSchneck March 26, 2014 at 10:04 pm
          AB,
          All I am saying is that the Mets have some guys at AAA that can likely provide adequate depth, and some come with interesting potential. We all know about the pitching. Position-wise, Centeno is like a Josh Thole that brings plus D. No star, but plus D at the C position never hurts. Puello was a physical specimen at 16 when the Mets signed him. His issue has always been plate discipline and pitch identity. No excuses for PEDs, but I don’t think they help with plate discipline and pitch recognition. I see more upside with Flores than you do. Den Dekker is like a Kirk with more power and speed. Yes he has some big holes in that he can’t hit lefties and Ks too much, but modest improvement in those areas and he can be serviceable as a platoon OF and late game defender. No, none of these guys will carry a team, but it is better MLB ready depth than I can remember. Not all, but a few of these guys will rise above the ranks of AAAA player. It won’t matter much if Alderson can’t find another impact positional player.
  9. Izzy March 26, 2014 at 12:33 pm
    Wow!!!! what more can be said.I feel as if my negativity toward this ownership and front office has caught on like a plague. My only point if disagreement with any point is argo’s request to have Seratelli be the SS. Alderson has fed us the feel good stories every year and the only feel good story would be a playoff contending team, which is the one feel good story he refuses to provide.
  10. argonbunnies March 28, 2014 at 1:44 am
    Uh oh. Familia has 5 hits, 3 walks and 1 K in his last 3 innings, and every out he got today was a bullet. Normally I wouldn’t sweat the 6th guy in the ‘pen, but he’s been nearly the only positive surprise in camp, so I’m sad to see that progress take a hit. If he could evolve into an elite set-up man, that would help the Mets a lot, but perhaps he’s still the same out-of-control heaver he’s always been.

    If this team was actually gunning for 90 wins, the opening day ‘pen should probably include Montero and deGrom, but perhaps the Mets aren’t stupid enough to believe their own hype.

  11. Izzy March 28, 2014 at 12:34 pm
    Do you hear the GM on ESPN yesterday? Backtracked his hapless statement until he reclaimed the title Liarson. If he thought he had a 90 win team he’d have found a big league shortstop and would have resolved first base, as well as have a big league pen. There would have been nothing wrong with having kids in the pen even this year. It has to be demoralizing to be a Met farm hand and watch guys from elsewhere rise because they are ready while they wait as the GM from hell makes a cookie cutter mld for all his kids. Cookie cutters made bad ballparks and make bad farm systems.
  12. DanS March 29, 2014 at 4:51 pm
    Watched Mets ag. Toronto last night in Montreal. Great to see the turnout. Did they finally figure out how to get the roof on the place? Would the Rays draw well-deserved crowds if they migrated north? Anyway, I watched Tejada on two routine plays barely throw the runner out at first. I don’t believe either runner was particularly speedy. I feel sorry for the kid. He’s not a MLB caliber SS, and he is the focus of a lot of Mets fans unhappiness with the front office and ownership. It’s going to be a long season.
  13. DanB March 30, 2014 at 6:04 pm
    Hey Joe, are you going to have a spot for us to post our predictions for 2014 like you did last year?
  14. cleonjames March 30, 2014 at 8:31 pm
    Hope springs a leak. As usual.