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.