As Andrew Battifarano wrote here earlier this week, shortstop is a position the Mets must figure out for 2104. Neither option currently available, Ruben Tejada or Omar Quintanilla, seems to be adequate for a contending team. While 2013 is down to a precious 30 games, what to do with these two relatively nondescript players has been the subject of quite a controversy among the Flushing Faithful.
Some fans believe that Ruben Tejada should be, or should have been, called up. Since going down with a quadraceps injury on May 30th, Tejada has not been with the Mets. He completed a rehab stint in July, and was assigned to AAA Las Vegas. At Las Vegas this year, Tejada has hit .288, with no home runs and 20 RBI. Before his injury, Tejada was hitting .209 with the Mets, with no home runs and 10 RBI. His replacement, Quintanilla, has hit .223, with 2 home runs and 18 RBI. The offensive numbers are remarkably similar. On defense, Tejada can best be described as “inconsistent”, showing the occasional brilliant play, while also appearing lethargic on the field at other times. Quintanilla has generally played consistent, if not spectacular, defense. He makes the routine play and turns the double play effectively, while having somewhat limited range. No matter how it’s sliced, the players are very comparable in most aspects of the game.
That leads to the next question, why hasn’t Tejada been given a shot to come up and win the job back? The answer seems to transcend the on-field prowess of both shortstops. It’s clear that the organization has soured on Tejada from his apparent apathy and lack of hustle. On several occasions, to a room full of reporters, Terry Collins has said the following of Tejada.
If the perception of you is that you’re lazy, then you’re lazy.
Collins has not tried very hard to mask his feelings toward Tejada. This probably goes back to spring training of 2012, when Tejada was asked to arrive in Port Saint Lucie early, to begin working with Daniel Murphy as a new double-play combination. Tejada did not show up early. Rather, he showed up exactly on time, and drew the ire of his skipper, and likely the organization’s brass. Fast forward through his year and a half in the big leagues, and it’s easy to see that Tejada does not always appear to give his all. For example, in the top of the 9th on May 28th against the Yankees, Tejada jogged after a ground ball up the middle. The ball was not hit hard, and may have been played with even normal effort. Tejada did not give that effort, and two days later was injured. It’s no surprise that he hasn’t been seen since.
The question has been posed on Twitter, “What major crime did Tejada commit? He’s at least as good as Quintanilla, why isn’t Ruben here”? In my opinion, Tejada committed the worst possible crime that one can be charged with in sports: lack of effort. I applaud the Mets for keeping Tejada in AAA. Send a message to him, and all players in the organization, that a lack of hustle will not be tolerated. Tejada is very limited from a skills perspective. He’ll never hit for power, and he’ll never be a fast runner. Therefore, he must excel at fielding and getting on base. He does not excel in these areas. Add the lack of hustle, and I ask the return question. “Why should Tejada be here? What kind of message would that send to the team and its fans”?
The rosters are about to expand to 40 players, and Tejada will likely be recalled. It will be interesting to see if the message has been received. Let’s take note if he hustles all the time. Let’s see if he plays as if he really wants to be a New York Met. Regardless of what Tejada does over the last month of the season, his days in Queens are likely numbered. Sandy Alderson has stated that Tejada is not part of the core going forward. If Ruben is gone after 2013, as long as the point about the expectation of maximum effort in the organization resonated throughout, keeping him in AAA will not have been for naught. We hear a lot about changing the culture. Clearly setting expectations, and holding people accountable for fulfilling those expectations, are certainly ways to do that.