Ruben Tejada Continues to Shine After Departure of Jose Reyes

By Matt Musico

The Marlins are in town to play the Mets, so you know what that means; let’s make a bunch of comparisons between Ruben Tejada and Jose Reyes, even though they’re completely different players.

Reyes is playing as a visitor at Citi Field for the second time since he took his talents to South Beach. He’s also coming into town in the middle of something that he never did as a Met- hit in 24 consecutive games. He’s been one of the hottest hitters during the Marlins most recent decline into the NL East basement, and is now hitting .288/.351/.432 this season.

The former Mets cornerstone mentioned he’s hoping for a better reception from the Flushing faithful this time around, who booed more than they cheered, and only cheered loudly as he proceeded to go 1-for-12 in three losses in New York. If there was a hole at

shortstop this season, maybe fans would be more nostalgic when they watch Jose come out of the visitor’s dugout, but the emergence of Ruben Tejada has helped erase any feelings of them missing their old spark plug.

Jose Reyes’ 2011 campaign was one of the best offensive seasons that has ever been put together by a New York Met. In winning the franchise’s first batting title, he had a .337/.384/.493 line, including 7 home runs, 44 RBI, 101 runs scored, 39 stolen bases, 31 doubles, and a league-leading 16 triples. How do you replace that? Well, it’s like what Brad Pitt said in Moneyball about losing Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon, and Jason Isringhausen in one offseason. You can’t replace them with a carbon copy; you need to find a player that can help the team score runs, which will in turn win ballgames.

Before the season started, the front office figured they would be getting a plus defender at shortstop with marginal offensive ability in Tejada, especially at the tender age of 22. It was kind of like the Rey Ordonez effect; play solid defense, and if you hit .260, it would be considered a win. Well, they’ve gotten a bit more than that.

It was seen in his absence due to a strained quad, but Tejada’s right-handed bat brings tremendous balance at the top of the order, one that is dominated by lefties. At the start of the season, Andres Torres was penciled in as the lead-off man and their new starting shortstop was going to hit 7th or 8th, but the early injury to Torres forced Collins to try various players in the top spot, with Ruben’s patience and .368 OBP winning the contest.

Ruben Tejada will never be Jose Reyes; that much we’re sure of. He can’t steal bases (1 SB in ’12), he won’t hit triples (0 3B in ’12), and he’s not going to hit home runs (1 HR in ’12). However, comparing their age-22 seasons, Tejada’s 5.9% BB rate is almost double what Reyes’ was (3.7%), and while it took Jose 696 at-bats to hit 24 doubles, Ruben has hit 16 in only 266 at-bats.

Again, I know this is comparing apples to oranges because these two are totally different players, but Tejada’s consistent play both in the field and at the plate (.323/.368/.395) has been a God send to this ball club, and he has more than filled the void that Jose Reyes left on that day in December that we all remember vividly.

Ruben has done a great job turning his title from “Mets starting shortstop and Jose Reyes’ replacement” to just “Mets starting shortstop.” He’s shown maturity beyond his years on and off the field, and he can only continue to build upon the foundation he’s laid in 2012.