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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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An Awful Lotta Ruben Tejada

Shocking as it may have been to behold, Bartolo Colon doubling in Anthony Recker was less surprising than Ruben Tejada emerging as the Mets’ full-time third baseman. Anthony Recker being on second for Colon to double in was rather stunning in and of itself — Recker was 0-for-13 at Citi Field before the bottom of the second Sunday, whereas Colon was 1-for-8 — but not as surprising as Tejada being anointed permanent as can be caretaker of the position that was supposed to be taken care of through 2020.

Anthony Recker played third base for the Mets before Ruben Tejada ever did and Anthony Recker is a backup catcher. No wonder Colon connecting for extra bases seems the least surprising aspect of Sunday’s win over the Marlins.

Will wonders ever cease? In Ruben’s case, we can only hope not. We can only hope that the six-year veteran who still looks and sometimes plays as if he was recalled last week maintains his latest brush with competence. Saturday he appeared alternately capable and overmatched at the hot corner. Sunday his defense didn’t directly result in any calamitous activity. As of Monday, he’s what Daniel Murphy, Eric Campbell and Danny Muno aren’t after their respective auditions. He’s David Wright’s long-term fill-in.

Until he isn’t.

Terry Collins saw enough hitting from the former occasional starting second baseman (2010-2011) and generally ensconced starting shortstop (2012-2014) to pronounce him the best possible if not his final answer to the million-dollar question of who wants to be the starting third baseman. If anything, Ruben’s a lifeline. He brought in the most runs on Saturday and he accounted for the winning run Sunday. His .724 OPS is outpointing both Curtis Granderson’s and Michael Cuddyer’s, which says more about them than it does about him. Either way, that’s his bat. When wearing his glove, Ruben never officially planted a foot significantly to the right of short until May 14, but that’s good enough for these Mets who are trying to get by and surge ahead simultaneously.

A team with obvious playoff aspirations would be shaking every tree, bush and shrub in hopes of landing an experienced third baseman to pick up the enormous slack left behind by Wright’s bout with spinal stenosis. Perhaps that process is occurring below radar as we speak. Maybe Sandy Alderson has another Kelly Shoppach or Eric Young up his sleeve. But he probably doesn’t. So I’m just going to assume Collins isn’t kidding when he says Tejada is it.

Sounds familiar. Tejada is both always and rarely it. Always refers to the fact that he sticks around and inevitably gets a chance to show his stuff, which is sometimes tantalizing, eventually limited. Rarely refers to, well, wasn’t Ruben Tejada going to make us stop grumbling that Jose Reyes wasn’t here anymore? Wasn’t he the reason Wilmer Flores was taking up Triple-A studies at second base? Wasn’t he theoretically reborn as a defensive replacement?

Now he’s been Ray-Knighted the starting third baseman for a team that holds a Wild Card spot through nearly a third of a season and somehow remains but a half-game behind the Nationals for first place. It’s a credit to Tejada that he finds ways to make himself convincingly useful. It’s less so to the Mets that when one day is done and the next is about to begin, they rely on Ruben Tejada to more than temporarily succeed David Wright.

I’m reminded of the summer of 1989 when the Mets struggled to make a legitimate playoff push, held back by (among other disappointments) the failure of Gregg Jefferies to ignite. Jefferies was handed second base after a great September in 1988. They gave him every conceivable shot to keep it. He lost it anyway. The position fell to perpetual utilityman — and future David Wright agent — Keith Miller. Keith seemed steady; the Mets got hot. Praise be, Keith Miller was the answer! Keith Miller was the starting second baseman!

That lasted a little over two weeks, or roughly the extent of the Mets’ active participation in the 1989 pennant race. Which isn’t to say Tejada won’t give the Mets a longer-lasting solution. It’s Tejada’s track record that indicates this is nothing but the most graspable straw within Collins’s reach. It’s not like they’ve given Terry all that many tall straws to grasp at.

Ruben Tejada, you’re our starting third baseman. Congratulations old friend/young man. You’re it. Good luck to you. Good luck to us.

10 comments to An Awful Lotta Ruben Tejada

  • Daniel Hall

    Well, I’m probably all alone with that, but I really like Ruben Tejada. Always have. No power, no speed, but good defense and not an automatic out, and there are players on the roster that fail all four categories (looking at you, Michael Cuddyer).

    The only option that was not explored so far this season is having Matt Reynolds up, who played third base in college. And we should not expect the team to go out and get some grizzled veteran like Aramis Ramirez. It should be clear by now that the team has no dime left.

    I’m fine with Ruben at third, because he tops a bland-tasting Campbell and a Captain potentially in a power chair by a lot …..

    • Seth

      I do too. Do people forget that he’s still only 25? Thing is, I’ve seen what Ruben is capable of doing, and if he can regain his 2011-2012 form, I think he’ll be fine.

  • BlondiesJake

    The first year after Reyes left, Tejada seemed like a more-than-adequate replacement. All he has done since then is regress so I will hope Alderson deals for Ramirez or even dumpster dives in the hopes of McGehee rebounding.

  • Dave

    As frightening a prospect as giving a job to someone who once lost his job to Omar Quintanilla – and there aren’t many people who can say that – may be, the shallowness of this bench says Ruben may well be the best option right now. Campbell is clearly an Andrew Brown/Josh Satin retread, I’m not sure Muno is even that, and poor Murph gets too confused by his own presumed versatility. Of course had Sandy thought about the reality of injuries and the need to give players days off, he may have assembled a bench made up of legitimate major leaguers and we might not be in this conundrum.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Maybe somebody at Heineken will give us our money back for David Wright.

  • 9th string catcher

    I think the article makes a good point about not anointing anyone with the full time job – Tejada (and a few others) seem to do their best when the job is on the line, then get complacent (or injured. Or both). Fact is, when Dilson comes back, I fully expect him back at 2nd and Murphy at 3rd. TC should remind Tejada of this fact every single day.

  • open the gates

    Maybe Tejada has found his niche. Bench player/spot starter. It’s a humble destination for someone originally pegged to fill Jose Reyes’ cleats. On the other hand, maybe that was too lofty an expectation in the first place.

    On another, slightly touched upon topic : I ain’t no doctor, but is it possible that spinal stenosis may have some connection to playing most of a season with a broken back? I still find it hard for me to believe that an even slightly competent team medical staff allowed that to happen.

  • Left Coast Jerry

    Greetings from San Diego. This is my 7th annual trip to the border town to see the Mets. I suspect I’ll see a lotta Tejada the next 3 days. If he ends up going 0-for-12, there will likely be another third baseman by the time they get to Phoenix.

    Ruben was certainly the only Met who had clutch hits in the Miami series. All I can say is “What a Tejada” and “Why a Cuddyer.”

    Keep the faith, fellow travelers. We just might get there.

  • BlondiesJake

    Left Coast Jerry, if I can shake this nasty cold I’ve had all weekend I’ll be making my 4th trip down from LA to SD to watch the Mets. The first time was 2006 and I believe I saw Julio Franco and Endy Chavez as part of the bizarre bench in that almost amazing season.

    • Left Coast Jerry

      BlondiesJake, all I can say is you missed one hell of a game tonight. I hope you do make it down here. I’ll be in Section 107, Row 32, for Tuesday and Wednesday. Greg, you have my permission to share my e-mail address with Jake.

      While I would come down here occasionally in a previous century, especially when my son was a student at San Diego State, the wife and I have been making the trip annually since 2009, and staying down here to see 2 or 3 games. The lean years. My first game of that stretch ended with K-Rod giving up a walk-off grand slam to Everth Cabrera.

      I’ll post about what happened tonight in response to Greg’s or Jason’s next post.