Last night, as the Mets were on the precipice of their tenth walkoff loss of the season, Ruben Tejada may have made his strongest case for remaining the Mets second baseman even after Luis Castillo returns from the disabled list.
With defeat knocking on the door and the winning run at the plate in the form of Mets killer and nemesis Willie Harris, Ruben Tejada saved the game with a remarkable pickoff that ended the game and preserved the win for the Mets. Here is what happened…
With the tying runs on base and the Nationals still charged up from their walkoff win the night before, Tejada who was subbing at shortstop for the injured Jose Reyes, took matters into his own hands. He darted to his left, sneaking behind Roger Bernadina at second base and signaled to Frankie Rodriguez that the pickoff play was on. Rodriguez turned and fired a bullet to the waiting Tejada who blocked second base with his foot and tagged Bernadina for the third out, clinching the 5-3 victory for the Mets. Tejada’s instincts took over and it was amazing to say the least.
Tejada has been a revelation since replacing Castillo at second base.
Defensively, it’s no question that he is a vastly better defender than Castillo, and his range has been other-worldly to put it mildly. The kid is a smooth operator on the field, making the routine plays and occasionally dazzling the crowd with his acrobatic style and ability to snare would-be singles and transform them into outs. He turns the double play with the best of them and his powerful arm has surprised many.
For all those reasons alone, Tejada has earned the right to be the everyday second baseman.
I know the stat-heads will cringe and chop my head off because they’ll look at Tejada’s .301 OBP and scream bloody murder, but I implore them to hear me out. Stop the fixation with his OBP for a moment and look at this objectively. Tejada is just 20 years old, the same age as Jeff Francoeur when he broke into the Majors, and there will be growing pains offensively. But, I look at second base as a spot where superior defense can ease concerns about not so superior offense.
Tejada has gotten off to a rough start at the plate, yes, but he was batting .294 at Triple-A Buffalo before being recalled by the Mets, and last season Tejada batted .289 for Double-A Binghamton and flashed some speed with 19 stolen bases. So it does bode well for some potentially good, but not great, production in the future.
Offensively, he may not be the OBP darling that Castillo has been throughout his career, but I’m willing to overlook that because I like Tejada’s youthful exuberance, tenacity, instincts and savvy style of play. It’s refreshing to see a Mets second baseman who isn’t gimpy, hobbling, and straining to to make plays to his left or right.
With the return of Carlos Beltran only days away, I believe the Mets can afford to be defensive minded at second base, even at the risk of little to no offense in return.
Tejada seems to possess a good feel for the game and a firm grasp of the fundamentals as well, something that others on the team can feed from.
Manuel recently said this week that Luis Castillo will be the everyday second baseman when he returns, and that Tejada will most likely return to Buffalo when Castillo is activated. That would be a big mistake in my opinion…
Let me know who you prefer as your everyday second baseman by voting in our poll.