It’s September, and Ruben Tejada’s Still in Las Vegas
Added by Guy Kipp on September 3, 2013.
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, especially if you are Ruben Tejada.
The erstwhile Mets shortstop prospect must turn off Sheryl Crow’s song “Leaving Las Vegas” every time he hears it on the radio, because, it seems, Tejada might never get to leave Las Vegas.
Just a year after batting .289 at the age of 22 in his first season as Jose Reyes’ replacement as the Mets’ starting shortstop, Tejada was batting .209 when he pulled a quad muscle at the beginning of June. He was on the disabled list at almost precisely the moment he was about to be optioned out to Triple-A Las Vegas—which is what happened to Tejada, anyway, once he completed his rehabilitation from the leg injury.
At Las Vegas, Tejada has just won Mets Minor League Player of the Week honors after batting .424 (14 for 33) in the last week. But, it’s the first week of September and major league rosters have expanded, and Ruben Tejada has not received an invitation to come back east and join the Mets.
Overall, Tejada is batting .288 in 60 games at Las Vegas, and he’s fielding .969 with eight errors at shortstop there.
So why hasn’t Tejada come back to the major leagues yet?
Surely it is not because the Mets’ starting shortstop for the last three months, Omar Quintanilla—he of the .221 batting average, the .599 OPS and the proclivity to play so deep defensively that he allows an extra infield hit a game to opponents, it seems—is knocking anybody’s eyes out with his sterling play in Tejada’s place.
Quintanilla has now, over a large sample size, shown that he’s no starting shortstop in the major leagues, and he is seven years older than Ruben Tejada.
But the Mets seem intent on either teaching the 23-year-old Tejada a lesson he will never forget about coming to spring training in shape, or they are hell-bent on destroying any trade value a 23-year-old shortstop one year removed from a .289 major league batting average at a demanding defensive position might have accrued until this point.
In a radio interview this week, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said of Tejada, “One of the problems with Ruben is it’s like pulling teeth. Extra batting practice, extra this, extra that. It just doesn’t happen necessarily unless somebody else is insisting on it. That’s what we need to see. We need to see a commitment to improvement.”
To be fair to the Mets, Tejada did play much of the first quarter of the 2013 season as if he were in a daze, and there were a few occasions when his inability to make the effort to range even a little bit to his left for grounders up the middle was astounding—to the point where, had Gil Hodges seen that 45 years ago, he might have walked out to shortstop mid-inning and pulled Tejada from the game the way he did with left fielder Cleon Jones.
But the Mets have to figure out what their direction is going to be at shortstop, and, if it is going to be another year with Quintinalla keeping the position lukewarm in lieu of Tejada or anybody else, that is just another reason that 2014 would loom as another very long season in Flushing.