Although he had been hitting well over .300 for most of the season, Ruben Tejada has enjoyed a solid campaign as a 22-year-0ld taking on starting shortstop duties for the first time in the Major Leagues despite his recent slump. While hitting predominantly in the lead-off spot until recently, Tejada has a .290/.336/.359 line heading into tonight’s ballgame against the Nationals. However, since May, there has been a decline each month in the shortstop’s batting average.
From May through July, it was a very slight decline in his average (.333 to .323 to .315), but it was the steep drop off in August and now into September that has fans scratching their heads. In 111 August at-bats, Tejada hit .261/.305/.360, which isn’t horrible, but when you combine that with the .190/.261/.190 he has through 21 at-bats in September, now we have an issue.
Don’t get me wrong; Tejada’s overall body of work this season has been quite the surprise, as he’s supplied more offense than anyone was anticipating. Terry Collins elected to sit Tejada on September 7th because he was fatigued, and the long season is starting to get to him. So, Collins has used Justin Turner and Ronny Cedenoinstead at strategic times to give his starting shortstop time to take a breath.
In talking with Kevin Burkhardt before last night’s loss, the Mets skipper touched upon what Ruben’s plans were for the off-season and getting ready for 2013. The biggest news is that he will be working out with former teammate, Jose Reyes, at a Garden City, LI location. Tejada, who shares the same agent as Reyes, was supposed to work out with him last year, but it never actually happened. Collins felt this was a great idea, but also said he needs to do a better job at monitoring Ruben during the season to make sure he’s eating correctly and taking care of himself to ensure he won’t get fatigued by the time September rolls around.
Well, Bobby Ojeda unloaded on the SNY Mets pre-game show after that interview was played, and I wholeheartedly agree with him. His basic message to Ruben was the classic, “Suck it up.” There are 700 other MLB players who are just as tired as he is, and they’re playing through it. Ojeda went on to say that this kind of stuff didn’t happen during his playing days, as they played through just about anything they could to stay on the field.
I was doing a couple of other things while listening to the pre-game show, but I found myself staring at the TV as Ojeda started his mini-rant. I stood there and applauded him by myself, because it was music to my ears. I understand that Major League Baseball is a grind with the schedule they’re on and it’s tough, but come on, man. Not only is Tejada playing a game as his job, he’s only 22 years-old! This is not the time in his career he should be getting days off because he’s “tired.”
He’s got plenty of veteran leadership in players like David Wright and Scott Hairston who know how to take care of their bodies so they can play everyday through September, and while he was hitting well over .300 earlier in the season, he saw his older teammates jump into cold baths, and decided to pass on it, but now he’s paying the price. There is a lot riding on this month for Tejada; if he finishes in a horrible slump, his overall solid season will have a sour taste for the duration of the winter. So, he needs to heed Ojeda’s advice and suck it up. If he wants to be a great ballplayer, he needs to stop making excuses for himself, and if Terry Collins wants to help mold him to be great, he needs to stop babying his players, as he gave Daniel Murphy a couple days off last month for the same reason.