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A Ruben to Go

I long ago worked with a CFO who was fond of quoting the late Everett Dirksen: “A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you’re talking you’re talking about real money — so cut down on the paper clips.” The paper clips part may have been our CFO’s coda, but you could hear the longtime Senate minority leader’s sentiments echoed from Port St. Lucie Wednesday as Ruben Tejada was, at last, given his walking papers [1].

Ruben always could work out a walk.

Must be the money, right? We all more or less love Ruben since last October and when it comes to Ruben’s skill set — guy who won’t necessarily kill you, guy who now and then helps you — there was nothing wrong with what he brought to the Met table. Nobody was ever more Ruben Tejada than Ruben Tejada.

That, I suppose, made him his own archetype. I think back to the first FAFIF Spring, in 2005, when the Mets deleted their perfectly good utilityman, Joe McEwing, when Chris Woodward became available and proved himself more consistently capable of doing Joe McEwing things than Joe McEwing. Nobody ever called Chris Woodward “Super,” but he seemed better in the moment. One balanced one’s sentimentality toward the next-to-last 2000 Met still on the roster (only Mike Piazza was left post-McEwing) with the realpolitik of, in essence, it ain’t Joe friends, it’s Joe business.

Adios, amigo. [2]

Adios, amigo.

Eleven springs later, releasing Tejada is a little like that, except I don’t necessarily see a contemporary Chris Woodward in his off-the-bench prime charging onto this team. Maybe Matt Reynolds makes a splash. Maybe all those balls Eric Campbell hits so hard start to fall in. Maybe Tejada doesn’t wind up on the Cardinals, which is where we tend to presume every cast-off Met winds up and elevates his baseball IQ to our eventual teeth-gnashing detriment. What it inevitably comes down to is Ruben, who never quite cemented his role, was going to make three million bucks and now the Mets won’t have to pay him five-sixths of that.

Two-point-five-million here, two-point-five-million there…and I’m not criticizing the decision for being financially driven. Roleless Ruben could be valuable or he could be a cipher. I honestly don’t know how much a player who wasn’t going to be the go-to backup infielder of record is “worth”. Yoenis Cespedes signs a three-year deal worth $75 million and it’s sort of a bargain. Jacob deGrom is renewed at $607,000 and it’s a travesty, but don’t worry, because if he stays in one piece, he’ll get much more. Michael Cuddyer accepts approximately $3 million to be on his merry way and it’s a gift. Daniel Murphy rejects a qualifying offer of $15.8 million because it’s understood to be kind of an insult.

We should all be so insulted.

Anyway, somewhere in there, $2.5 million not dedicated to Ruben Tejada, minus the $507,500 or so it will take to minimally compensate his replacement, adds up. Hopefully it adds up to whatever the Mets might need in late July, assuming the Mets need something in late July. And the Mets, as content as we are with them, always need something.

That’s the practicality. The sentiment is it’s sad that somebody ordered a Ruben to go. I mean, c’mon, he was (and is) Ruben Tejada. You talk about rules regarding kids in the clubhouse. Ruben Tejada is perpetually 14 years old from the looks of him. How in the name of Drake LaRoche [3] can you kick him to the curb?

With the purge of the Children of Manuel [4] almost complete, Lucas Duda is the second-longest serving Met, behind David Wright, who isn’t going anywhere unless his back tells him otherwise. Tejada was lined up to be the penultimate senior Met, which is crazy, until you remember Ruben made the club out of camp in 2010 as insurance for Jose Reyes’s thyroid condition, and Ruben wasn’t too far removed from 14 then. He’s been up and down in the intervening seasons, but mostly up and as close to a fixture at Citi Field as anything that wasn’t the Pepsi-Cola sign. But the Pepsi-Cola sign isn’t there anymore, and neither is Ruben.

I’m glad he — like Murphy and Jon Niese — got to experience a division title and part of a postseason. Without 2015, Tejada would have been consigned to the batch of players from the lean years. It’s the players who persevere through those hard times and arrive in at least the foreground to the promised land who are destined to sparkle in our memories. Ron Swoboda was a 1966 Met. Mookie Wilson was a 1982 Met. We don’t identify them as such, though, no matter that Swoboda hit an Amazin’ walkoff home run against the Giants in ’66 or that Mookie stole more bases than any Met previously in ’82. In that spirit, Ruben Tejada was a 2012 Met. He was one of the better 2012 Mets. Tejada succeeded Reyes at short, an impossible situation, and did all right. He batted .289 as a full-time player. He stayed in at-bats forever. He went back on popups with the best of them. By 2013, however, we got an inkling we had already experienced peak Tejada at the biological age of 23 (though he still looked 14). By 2014, neither Tejada nor the Mets appeared to be on the fast track to excellence.

The point is, Ruben Tejada won’t be remembered as a 2012 Met. He’s a 2015 Met, which will eternally mean something, partly due to his own contribution to the team we’d been waiting practically forever for. Hell, he literally gave a limb [5] to the cause. Good luck to him wherever he goes.

I had a nice conversation with the folks at Mets Merized Online [6] regarding those 2015 Mets, which you can read here. And if you want another taste of that National League championship season, I’d love you to check out Amazin’ Again [7], my book on how the Mets brought the magic back to Queens.