The Mets kickoff their final series before the All-Star break with a three game set against Miami. This current home stand has been encouraging in all aspects specifically this past series when the team took three of four from the rival Atlanta Braves. The lineup has picked up its run production too with the help of a resurgent Travis d’Arnaud and a red hot Curtis Granderson. The Mets are now 42-50 and eight games out of first place, still a long way from contention, but trending upward. If the lineup continues to show depth and productivity like it has in recent weeks, the onus on light hitting Ruben Tejada eases considerably. Despite his shortcomings, Tejada has still held up his end of the bargain… so to speak.
Tejada has been a lightning rod for criticism the past two years; some of the jeers are justified, but much is debatable. Despite the rumblings from outside the diamond, Tejada has put together a solid season. Solid could be deemed the right term providing a reasonable standard is set within the expectations for him. Currently, Tejada has a slash line of .241/.353/.300 with two HR and 19 RBIs. While the numbers do not reflect an offensive splurge, they do show that of a competent eighth place hitter. To be fair, a .353 OBP is more than adequate despite only having ten extra-base hits on the season. Tejada, still only 24, has played a better than average shortstop too amongst a limited ranged supporting cast within the infield. He’s made only five errors in 74 games and has a career best fielding percentage of .985. This of course an improvement over an abysmal 2013 campaign, when he misplayed numerous routine groundballs and hit a career low .202 before his season ended with an injury.
It’s nice to see from a fan’s perspective. It wasn’t too far back when everyone was imploring the Mets’ brass to upgrade the position via trade or free agency. Tejada was a huge disappointment last season, and the idea of signing Stephen Drew or Jhonny Peralta seemed plausible. Suddenly, through 92 games, Tejada seems like a better option. Drew has been awful since signing with Boston back in June for $10.1 million dollars. He’s currently batting .128 (11-for-86) with 2 HR, 5 RBIs, and a whopping 29 SOs in 26 games. That’s right 29 SOs in 86 ABs. This was the guy who was supposed to solidify the Mets shortstop position for the next three to four seasons. Sometimes buyer beware is the best tactic.
Of course, Peralta’s four year/$53 million contract was not an attractive signing for GM Sandy Alderson either, considering he was coming off a 50 game suspension and priced way over market value. Sure, it would’ve been an upgrade, but with J.J. Hardy, Jed Lowrie, and Asdrubal Cabrera all impending free agents after this season, the decision to passed on Peralta and his lofty price tag seems to have been a wise decision.
Tejada may not be the future for Mets at shortstop, but for the time being he deserves the support of the fan base for a nice turnaround season. It’s indeed remarkable that he is on pace to walk over 75 times and ranks second in the NL with eight intentional walks. Maybe it’s a testament to his batting approach, which even the harshest critics should admire. Tejada’s knowledge of the strike zone and ability to make contact has provided the lineup with numerous lengthy at-bats that have frustrated pitchers over the years.
Tejada is a hard guy to figure out. He’s quiet, well-mannered, yet sometimes looks detached or oblivious. Management has had their issues with him in past seasons for his fitness and work ethic for whatever reasons. He’s still only 24, and if his season continues as it has, it’s fair to say Tejada has done his job well. It would be nice for the young shortstop to exceed our expectations, but considering the temperature around him last season, the status quo may be sufficient for the 2014 Mets.
Follow Sean Flattery on Twitter @SeanFlatts