Mancuso: Mets Made A Mistake With Tejada

(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
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Nothing personal here about Ruben Tejada, The infielder who was placed on waivers by the New York Mets is now a free agent, and regardless the Mets will pay $4000,000 of his $3 million salary because he was released 15-days before Opening Day.

So with that, Tejada who did everything that was asked is looking for a job. And by all means, whether it be the St. Louis Cardinals who need a shortstop, or the crosstown Yankees, Tejada will become a valuable addition. Mets fans just hope, Tejada does not come back to haunt their team as many former players do.

In this case, Tejada from a personal perspective will be missed. Not only missed by yours truly but by many others who have access to the clubhouse before and after games at Citi Field and on the road. There was always his quiet composure but to some never enough when it came to producing on the field.

The lasting memory for Ruben Tejada was that slide from Chase Utley of the Los Angeles Dodgers during game 2 of the National League Division Series in October. A slide that resulted in a fractured fibula and sudden end to his season. The final result for Tejada was becoming a hero with Mets fans that was seen with a loud ovation at Citi Field during player introductions before Game 3 of that series with the Dodgers.
He worked hard during the offseason but the other hero, Wilmer Flores, became more valuable off the bench for the Mets. And with the additions of Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera in the infield, baseball, because it is a business had no more need for Tejada in a Mets uniform.

Maybe it was the .261 average at the plate in 360 at bats last season, or three home runs and 28 runs batted in, perhaps not what GM Sandy Alderson was looking for as a valuable tool off the bench or role player. Or was it the cost, minimal by all standards, that said goodbye to Ruben Tejada and his six years in New York?

Certainly it was never a question about the work ethics of Ruben Tejada. With the exception of a few stints of going up and down in the system, because Tejada was not producing and the Mets needed more at the plate, the 26-year old native of Panama never complained.

It was always, “ I am ready and do what they ask me to do.” More so, when put in the situation of being the successor for Jose Reyes at shortstop, the young Tejada six years ago did what was asked. Like any player, there were setbacks with injuries and of course non production at the plate.

But there was never any questions as to Ruben Tejada having the tools. Yeah, there were no walk-off dramatic home runs and one five-RBI game at Wrigley Field in Chicago back in September of 2010. That was the initial year for Tejada when he played in 78 games, and in 216 at bats had 12 doubles, drove in 15 and scored 28 runs.

That was when the Mets were still mediocre, and a few years away from Wilmer Flores, and the big four on the mound of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz. And Tejada never seemed to be the productive hitter that was seen in 2012 when he compiled 134 hits in 114 games, after splitting time in Port St. Lucie and Buffalo.

So there was no more room for Tejada. But never say he was a quitter or not a good teammate, or that he was never prepared for the upcoming season. The manager, Terry Collins said, that Tejada this spring was in the best shape of his career. The captain, David Wright, this week said Tejada will be missed in the clubhouse and that there was never a question about his work ethics.

However, because baseball is big business, Tejada became the odd man out. The Mets feel more comfortable with Matt Reynolds or Eric Campbell in that role, unless another trade or minor acquisition is made by Alderson before the season opener two weeks from Sunday night at Kansas City.

During the postseason run in October, Tejada was in the Mets clubhouse. He stayed around the team and said his goodbyes after the World Series Game 5 loss to the Royals at Citi Field. Bartolo Colon, Juan Lagares, Flores, and Yoenis Cespedes, the new star all embraced Tejada. He was off the crutches and hobbled on a cane and there were expectations for a full recovery in 2016.

Though during that time of rehab and watching his teammates exit Citi Field for a final time, there was always that shadow of doubt. Would Ruben Tejada be expendable as the Mets looked to get more production and better in the infield? All the talk came to fruition with his free agency status now official.

The Mets may have lost a valuable player who could have filled that void with Cabrera expected to begin the season on the disabled list. But there is more to this personal perspective of no longer seeing that same face in the clubhouse.

Ruben Tejada was special from the first day he walked into the dugout at Citi Field in 2010. This reporter met the rookie who struggled understanding and speaking English. He saw five young ballplayers from Lehman High School of the Bronx above the dugout and signed their baseballs, then exited to the runway.

But he returned and wanted to know who those youngsters were and where they played ball. Later, after another Mets loss, Tejada in the clubhouse asked if he could take them to dinner and give them some insights about how to reach their goals. He knew then about the struggle and determination to get there, and in a restaurant in Washington Heights those young ballplayers had a night they will never forget.

It’s the persona of a ballplayer in the clubhouse and how they handle the spotlight of playing in New York. Ruben Tejada did everything that was asked for during his time in the big city, and now it is a matter of time as to where is his next destination?

More so, the Mets will feel the void of a valuable role player that only knew what it was growing up in their system.

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About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich has covered countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and BoxingInsider.com, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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