A “2 Guys” Tribute to America: The Charmed Life of Ruben Tejada

Ruben Tejada, a boy with a dream: Travel to America, play like crap, become a millionaire.

Ruben Tejada, a boy with a dream: Travel to America, play like crap, become a millionaire.

I’m going to begin with the kicker, for context:

On January 15, 2014, Ruben Tejada agreed to a one-year, $1.1 million contract with the New York Mets. Ruben’s old contract, which covered the 2013 season, paid him $515,000. Thus, in a single year, he more than doubled his earnings. 

Let’s now review the last twelve months in the life of Ruben Tejada.

* January, 2013: While the Mets outfield remains a puzzle, the infield is considered a relative strength with 3B David Wright, SS Ruben Tejada, 2B Daniel Murphy, and 1B Ike Davis. Tejada is coming off an injury-shorted 2012 season (114 games) that saw him slash to: .289/.333/.351, hitting .325 at the All-Star break; just .269 after.

* February Projections for Tejada: Bill James: .277/.338/.347. ZiPS: .272/.328/.341. Steamer: .257/.319/336. Metsmerized: .286/.352/.370. Mets360: .286/.340/.360. The steady glove is considered a given.

* February: Tejada reports early to Spring Training . . . with a pot belly.

* 2/24: In what would become the highlight of his season, the Panamanian-born Tejada rips a 2-run homer off Stephen Strasburg in the Mets exhibition opener.

* 2/27: Sandy talks about Tejada’s chance of batting leadoff: “You’re just going to have to take a shot with somebody, and hope they grow into it. Or, recognize the limitations of the people you have and emphasize the importance of doing certain things. So for example, with Ruben, it’s about getting on-base. He’s not going to steal bases, but if we can get him back to a .360 OBP, we will take it.”

* 3/28: Dan Stack writes at Mets360: “Tejada’s spring slash line is an unsightly and forgettable .080/.193/.160 . . . As long as Tejada’s gets this slump out of his system and takes a different approach at the plate when the games count for real, then yes, these awful stats can be brushed aside. However, if this funk continues we could be looking at a potential serious problem.”

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* 3/30: John Delcos labels Tejada a “Spring Training Bust,” and notes: “In most camps, hitting less than .100 would be a ticket to the minors, but the Mets have little alternatives.”

* 4/5: Ruben makes his 4th error in 5 regular season games. Opines Terry Collins: “I don’t know if it’s the cold weather — it very well could be.” And states David Wright: “I think and I still continue to think that he’s a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop.”

* 4/28: Rich Sparago at Rising Apple wonders, “Who Is Ruben Tejada?” After noting another crucial error by light-hitting Tejada, Sparago writes: “In my opinion, ever since I first saw Tejada, he projected as a backup middle infielder. He’ll generally give you solid defense, and hit just enough to warrant a roster spot. If the Mets decide to look in another direction at shortstop, that decision may be the right one.”

* 5/16: Matt Musico notes:  “In 12 games played and 46 at-bats, Tejada is hitting .174/.224/.217 in May.”

* 5/18: Dan Stack, Mets360: “I’d say it’s time that Quintanilla gets the call for the sole purpose of lighting a fire under Tejada. The message being that if Tejada doesn’t get his act in gear, he may see more time on the bench.”

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* 5/30: Tejeda placed on 15-day DL for strained quadriceps. John Delcos reported: “On the day after hearing a wake-up ultimatum or risk being sent to Triple-A Las Vegas, Tejada strained his right quadriceps going after a ball he had no chance of catching in Wednesday night’s victory over the Yankees.”

(BLOG TIMEOUT: Just a reminder, this is an overview of the year in which  Ruben Tejada doubled his salary.)

* 6/10: Sandy Alderson says that Ruben Tejada is not a “core player.” Wonders Joe D at Mesmerized: “What other GM devalues his players publicly?”

* 7/1: Tejada heads to Triple-A to continue his rehab assignment. Terry Collins ominously notes: “In order to come back, you’ve got to have some confidence in what you’re doing. So I want him to go down there and have some success, so when it’s time to come back here, his game is where it belongs and where he feels good about it.”

* 7/15: Mets360, Mid-Season Report Card grades Tejada with an F: “Tejada is another Mets’ player who seemingly lost his confidence. Before hitting the DL, Tejada was wretched and looked like a shell of his former self—both at the plate and in the field.”

* 7/24: Tejada goes 3-5 in Vegas win.

* 8/5: Two Guys, Jimmy: “Omar Quintanilla is currently hitting .231. Are we really going to wait until September before we get Tejeda back in the lineup?” Mike replies: “Tejada, unlike Davis, seems to have totally fallen from grace. He might be done already around here, he is arbitration eligible in the off-season.”

* 8/26: Two Guys, Jimmy: “Forget Lindsay Lohan’s media troubles. If anybody needs to fire his public relations firm, it’s Ruben Tejeda. He’s lost the media war. For a couple of years, Ruben was the kid who played the game right, bright and innocent, working deep counts, making the most of his skills. Steady and reliable and smart. Easy to root for. Homegrown. Yet all that acquired good will circled the drain this spring, suddenly he was fat and lazy and he didn’t care. Now the club would rather run Omar Quintanilla into the ground — a shortstop with no future with the Mets — instead of giving young, chastened Ruben the slimmest shot at redemption.”

* 8/31: Tejada homers for second time in 3 days in Vegas. Nobody cares.

* 9/3: Alderson on WFAN: “You know, one of the problems with Ruben is, it’s like pulling teeth. Extra batting practice, extra this, extra that, doesn’t happen unless someone else is insisting on it. And that’s what we need to see. We need to see a commitment to improvement.”

* 9/10: Mets (finally) call up Tejada to New York.

* 9/18: Ruben breaks his leg, just eight days after being recalled from Triple-A.

* 10/1: Alderson on WFAN: “Can we go into the season with what we had last year? Well, we got by with Quintanilla and Tejada and so forth, but that’s not what we’re trying to do next season so it’s definitely an area we have to look at.”

* 10/7: Two Guys, Mike: “Tejada is a good example of a guy where approach can only take you so far. Great, he works pitchers, but once it became obvious that he cannot hit a ball past the warning track, or beat out a groundball, pitchers adjusted. The other teams have scouts and data too, and ability will always win out. In some ways his brutal season was a positive. It shines a light that we have a huge hole at short. Kidding ourselves and trying to win around Tejada to justify past mistakes only handicaps the effort to win. Time to move on.”

* 11/17: Rumors surface that Tejada’s representatives are considering filing a grievance against the Mets with the Players’ Association, based on the club’s delays in bringing calling him back up to the MLB roster, delaying his free agency from 2016 to 2017. (Ruben was the Mets last September call-up; his free agency status would not have been changed if he had been called up one day sooner.)

What went wrong in 2013? These two guys.

What went wrong in 2013? Let’s start with these two guys.

 

* 12/9: Sandy Alderson at the Winter Meetings: “Depending how things materialize, we may live with certain weaknesses. For example, we could come out of these meetings with Tejada as our regular shortstop. Worse things could happen to us, certainly.”

* 12/28: J.P. Ricciardi says Mets are happy with Ruben Tejada! “I think in Ruben’s case, he got a lot early in his career and I think he’s starting to realize that he has to work a lot harder than he has in the past, and he has. To his credit, he really has.”

* 1/15: Inks new deal with New York, where it is widely anticipated he’ll be the starting shortstop for the 2014 season. Because: obviously!

* 1/18: Mets ink Omar Quintanilla!

TEJADA’S 2013 STATS:

  • PA: 227
  • G: 57
  • BA: .202
  • OBP: .259
  • SLG: .260
  • HR: 0
  • RBI: 10
  • SB: 2

His WAR went from 1.9 in 2011, 2.0 in 2012, to -0.9 in 2013.

Give that man a raise! In fact, let’s double his salary!

Ruben’s similarity scores at Baseball Reference indicate he compares most closely to: Bobby Sturgeon, Rafael Bournigal, Gordan Slade, Julio Gotay, Jimmy Jordan, Red Shannon, Simon Nicholls, Ken Hamlin, Frank Croucher, and Joe Hoover.

Is you asked, “Who?” we would have to reply, “Exactly!”

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It’s a wonderful country, ain’t it?

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4 comments

  1. Alan K. says:

    The irony is that had the Mets non-tendered Tejada, he’d probably wind up signing for a minor league deal. This “tribute” speaks volumes about the way Mets management does business and none of it is good.

  2. Crazy thought I had yesterday: A backdoor agreement after the early talk of a grievance, which was dropped, never filed.

    • Patrick Boegel says:

      Or mending fences for repeatedly making bizarre declarations of the guys lack of commitment and effort.

      I think this is principally why I disdained the Terry Collins extension.

      Upon arrival, Collins with roughly a year under his belt touring the Mets minor league system began his parade of extreme confidence is just about everyone he saw play during the 2010 season in the Mets system.

      But he was especially bullish about Tejada and Duda. Bullish to the point that I think when the Mets brain trust sat down to think about what to do with Jose Reyes, part of the dollar spend trade off began with wide eyed predictions of Tejada’s “potential”.

      Collins would be an outstanding little league coach. Because it is with very young players whose confidence and sense of self is always in flux, they need a lot of cheerleading from a manager. But with professionals it is completely backwards. He talks these guys into all-star games in his mind, and then spends time tearing them down, whether it be Tejeada, Duda or Davis, etal.

      Not that the players themselves are not responsible for their actions and performances. But…sometimes if your skipper overplays his hand it can lend to entitlement syndrome.

      To me, Terry designed the house, the flow and shape of the rooms, picked a lot of the furniture, and then got mad at the furniture when it did not function the way he wanted it to function.

  3. wkkortas says:

    Never give up hope–Julio Gotay was once traded even-up for Dick Groat, after all.

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