Apr 17

Ruben Tejada Not Proving To Be Answer At Shortstop

Replacing Jose Reyes was never going to be easy, but with Ruben Tejada’s fielding prowess if he could hit just a little that would be acceptable to the Mets. Perhaps that should read, “former fielding prowess.’’

TEJADA: What's the problem?

TEJADA: What’s the problem?

Trouble is, he’s not hitting or fielding. He’s not even just holding his own; he’s been poor at both, actually terrible. Tejada has committed six errors in 13 games – a pace for just under 80 – and the Mets have already lost a couple of games directly attributed to his defense. It matters little if David Wright believes he’s a Gold Glove caliber shortstop. What matters is if Tejada can catch the ball, and if he does, keep it out of the stands.

Both Tejada’s glove and arm have been erratic. It was a throwing error Tuesday night that opened the door for a late-inning collapse. His throwing has been especially poor. Is Tejada going Steve Sax or Chuck Knoblauch on us?

Yes, it was cold and miserable, and yes, the pitchers needed to regroup to get the following hitters, but that doesn’t change the fact Tejada’s defense is hurting the Mets and they have little answers.

They would like to bring up Omar Quintanilla, but would need to clear a spot on the 40-man roster. Wilmer Flores is on the 40-man roster, but the Mets don’t think he’s ready, otherwise a Flores-for-Tejada swap would be considered. The Mets certainly don’t want to bring up Flores to have him languish on the bench.

Neither Collins nor Tejada blamed the error totally on the weather, but both said it was a contributing factor because the cold made gripping the ball difficult. News Flash: It’s not going to get better tonight or tomorrow.

Blaming the weather might be easier to accept if Tejada hasn’t been so awful this season. What’s wrong with him? Was last year a fluke? Is there an injury we don’t know about?

Whatever the reason, his current play is unacceptable and wouldn’t be tolerated if the Mets had a ready backup. If Tejada continues at this rate and the Mets tank in the second half, perhaps they should consider force-feeding the position to Flores or go shortstop shopping in the offseason.

After all, according to the Mets they will be ready to spend and contend next season. They can’t be competitive with a hole on the left side of the infield. Will they need to add a shortstop to their list?

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Mar 28

Mets Have More Questions Than Days Left Before Opening Day

With four days until Opening Day, most teams have their rosters, rotation and batting order set. The Mets are not most teams.

Their three remaining exhibition games will do little to answer questions for manager Terry Collins, who undoubtedly won’t be satisfied with what he sees Monday and will be mixing and matching for weeks.

The Mets think David Wright and Daniel Murphy will be ready, this after serious doubts just days ago. How things can change so quickly is puzzling.

Also, head scratching is the decision today to play Murphy at second against Washington in his first major league game of the spring. If something happens, it will be at least two weeks on the disabled list. If they play him in a minor league game, like they are with Wright, if he were re-injured they could backdate his time on the disabled list.

If this is about facing major league pitching, why against left-hander Gio Gonzalez?

This is asking for trouble.

The original plan was to replace Wright with Justin Turner, but he has a strained left calf – could it be residual from his sprained ankle? – and seems headed for the disabled list.

With their infield concerns, conventional thinking had Omar Quintanilla making the 25-man roster as a reserve, including backup to shortstop Ruben Tejada. This idea was heightened when Brandon Hicks was optioned.

The Mets also have concern with their defense in center field. Matt den Dekker is out with a broken wrist, so they are again considering Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who entered spring training penciled in as the leadoff hitter playing center field. However, he missed most of spring training with a bruised left knee. When Nieuwenhuis wasn’t taking treatment, he was mostly striking out (11 times) in his 26 at-bats (with only two hits). Those numbers will preclude Nieuwenhuis leading off should he make the team.

What is apparent is Jordany Valdespin, who leads the Mets with 21 hits, will make the team. But, where will he play if Nieuwenhuis and Murphy are both on the Opening Day roster? It should be center, but do they really want to put Nieuwenhuis on the bench for late-inning defense when he’s hit so poorly and should be getting at-bats on the minor league level?

The batting order is also unsettled.

Valdespin, by virtue of his hot spring, should bat leadoff, and if he’s ready, Murphy would likely hit second. With the way Tejada is hitting – .080 with just four hits – there’s no way he should be at the top of the order. Put him eighth.

If Wright is ready he will bat third, followed by Ike Davis, perhaps catcher John Buck or right fielder Marlon Byrd and then left fielder Lucas Duda, who has 16 strikeouts. Assuming Wright does not play, Byrd could bat third.

Collins wants to separate lefty strikeout machines Davis and Duda. Collins could sandwich both Byrd and Buck ahead of Duda, but that would leave him at the bottom of the order with Tejada and the pitcher.

Neither scenario is appealing.

The rotation would open with Jon Niese, Matt Harvey and Dillon Gee. Jeremy Hefner would get the fourth start and if Shaun Marcum’s neck injury isn’t better, they would bring back Niese. If Marcum goes on the disabled list as expected, it would enable Collins to carry an extra reliever, presumably Jeurys Familia.

The Mets will open with Johan Santana, Jenrry Mejia and Frank Francisco on the disabled list. Marcum could be another, and regardless of their optimism, Wright and Murphy remain possibilities.

Four days, but a lot more questions.

Feb 21

Terry Collins Deserves Commitment From Mets

Terry Collins is helping rebuild the Mets’ house and should get a chance to move in.

When the Mets hired GM Sandy Alderson the timetable was for three to four years. Rebuilding teams initially lose, which is the case for Collins’ Mets. There was promise in 2010, the second-half collapse of 2012, and things aren’t projected to be much better than last year’s 74 wins this summer.

COLLINS: Deserves endorsement from Mets. (Photo: MLB)

COLLINS: Deserves endorsement from Mets. (Photo: MLB)

There are no promises beyond this year, but Collins does have the endorsement of his best player.

“That would be great,’’ David Wright told reporters in Port St. Lucie if he wanted Collins back. “He is a perfect fit, a perfect mold for the type of team that we are building.’’

Wright’s words should carry weight.

Three straight losing seasons is usually not the way for a manager to get a contract extension, but Collins’ case is unique.

Other managers inherit teams with limited talent as did Collins, but things are always just a little more skewed with the Mets, beginning with their financial restrictions.

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Jan 22

From Santana To Wright To Davis,Things We’d Like To See Happen For The Mets

There are a lot of things I want to see happen for the 2013 Mets, such as making the playoffs. However, in the hope of being realistic, let’s talk about some of the things that would be good to see happen.

Perhaps if several of these happen, there might be some fun at Citi Field.

TRADING JOHAN SANTANA: Don’t get me wrong, I like Santana. I really do. I’d like nothing more than for him to remain healthy and regain his status as an elite pitcher and guide the Mets into October. But, let’s face it, even if Santana were to have a strong season the Mets don’t have enough pieces and will buy him out after this season. Given that, I’d settle on him being healthy and productive in the first half and the Mets being able to deal him to a contender. They’ll have to pick up some of the contract, but if they could swing a trade getting something is better than having him walk after the year with a $5.5 million buyout.

NIESE: Pitch like a No. 1

JON NIESE TAKING THE NEXT STEP:  Niese is the Mets’ ace despite a career-high 13 victories. There’s a lot to like about his future, but even more to like if he wins north of 15 games and gets to the next level.

DILLON GEE PITCHES LIKE A NO. 3: Gee enters spring training recovering from an aneurism. The doctors say he’s ready to go, but can anybody say how he’ll do? Gee has been impressive in spots, but no more than a No. 5 starter. He needs to step up his game.

MATT HARVEY LIVES THE HYPE:  He’s had ten starts, not enough to pencil him in for the Cy Young Award. Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain pitched dominating baseball early in their careers, can Harvey do the same?

BOBBY PARNELL BECOMES A PITCHER: There’s no doubting Parnell’s stuff, but he needs to improve his command, secondary pitches and learn how to challenge hitters with that fastball. The Mets can’t count on Frank Francisco to stay healthy and be a reliable closer. If not him, it has to be Parnell.

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Nov 05

2012 Mets Player Review: Ruben Tejada

RUBEN TEJADA, SS

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: Perhaps no Met endured as much preseason scrutiny as shortstop Ruben Tejada. Although he played well in 2011, hitting .284 in place of the injured Jose Reyes, this year the job was his and he would be judged as a starter. Tejada played a combined 105 games at second base in 2010 and 2011, but would be the fulltime shortstop last summer as the Mets began a new era. The Mets were satisfied with Tejada’s defense, with some in the organization favoring him over Reyes. However, Reyes is an offensive presence and the Mets were pleasantly surprised at Tejada’s average and .360 on-base percentage in 2011, but didn’t know if his numbers were a fluke or a real indicator of what could be expected. A player with no power, Tejada should help himself by being patient, but strikes out too much and draws too few walks.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: With so much going on with the 2012 Mets, they were fortunate not be saddled with a shortstop hole. It would be foolish to say Tejada completely replaced Reyes, but considering the void left the Mets got more than they could have expected. Tejada committed only 12 errors with a .974 fielding percentage. Tejada has good range, which is especially important considering he needed to shade towards second to compensate for second baseman Daniel Murphy. Tejada hit .289 after hitting over .300 for much of the season. However, his on-base percentage fell 27 points to .333 and his OPS dropped 11 points to .685. Tejada provided little run production (one homer and 25 RBI) and struck out 73 times compared to 27 walks. Tejada hit mostly first or second in the batting order, and was equally effective, hitting .293 and .292, respectively. Like most Mets, Tejada had a dramatic drop-off in the second half. Tejada hit .325 with 30 strikeouts in the first half, but fell to .269 with 43 strikeouts after the break.

LOOKING AT 2013: Tejada gave the Mets enough this summer to where they don’t need to concern themselves with shortstop in 2013. The Mets realize Tejada’s offensive limitations as far as run production. Andres Torres did not show anything as a leadoff hitter and likely won’t be brought back, so expect Tejada to get a shot at that responsibility. Hitting .289 again would be welcomed, but Tejada must increase his on-base percentage by cutting his strikeouts and walking more. Tejada should also attempt to be more aggressive on the bases. Considering the type of player Tejada is, he must also cut down on his frequency of fly balls, which is almost equal to that of balls hit on the ground.

NEXT: David Wright