7/6/15

Stephen Guilbert - Mets Fans Are Idiots When It Comes To Ruben Tejada

24 comments
ESPN
Excuse the inflammatory title, but we are. I am not sure there has been a more unfairly hated, chastised, or mistreated player on the Mets in the past few years. The only reason I say "past few years" and not longer is because Mets fans also gave Luis Castillo unfair treatment for years as well as Carlos Beltran for the better part of half a decade. None of that was fair. At least with Castillo and Beltran, fans can point to single moments that fuel their hate (Castillo's missed pop-up vs. the Yankees in the summer of 2009 and Beltran's called strike three in the 2006 NLCS). It does not make it more rational but at least an awful memory can better explain it.

What is it about Ruben Tejada that makes an entire fan base this dumb? What has Ruben Tejada done? Since this is a fan-run site that combines old school methodology with newer analytical tools, let's just analyze Ruben Tejada's career and try to figure it out.

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Ruben Tejada is a 25-year-old infielder for the New York Mets.  After making his debut as a 20-year-old in 2010 as an alternative to the incumbent Luis Castillo at second base, the youngster followed that season up with a very strong 2011 which saw an OBP of .360 with as-advertised strong defense. Before his debut, few prospect gurus were writing about him. Mack had the best take on Ruben Tejada, it seems, when he responded to an Amazin' Avenue interview that "Ruben Tejada will eventually be a utility infielder" (2010). My favorite prospect expert, John Sickels, also had a good take on Ruben before his debut,

"At worst a fine utility guy, but given his youth (age 20) and contact hitting ability he could get       beyond that. I like him as a sleeper for long-term success."
   --Sickles, 2010

Sickles gave him a rank of C+ which, at the time, was good enough for 10th in the Mets system. He ranked Tejada behind the following (with their career fWAR in parentheses):

1.) Jenrry Mejia (1.1)
2.) Wilmer Flores (2.3)
3.) Fernando Martinez (-0.6)
4.) Ike Davis (5.8)
5.) Jon Niese (12.3)
6.) Reese Havens (never made major leagues)
7.) Kyle Allen (never made major leagues)
8.) Jeurys Familia (1.1)
9.) Brad Holt (never made major leagues)
10.) Ruben Tejada (4.8)

Despite being the ranking and general consensus that his skill set suits best in a supporting role, Tejada has accumulated the third most value out of the top 10 prospect class from 2010.

After success in 2011, Ruben Tejada's role--and the way fans saw him--changed forever when star shortstop Jose Reyes left for Miami. The Mets took a committee approach early in 2012 with Ronny Cedeno, Omar Quintanilla and Ruben Tejada all splitting time early in the year. After hitting .325 with good defense in the first half, Ruben won the job. He finished the year with a very respectable 1.7 WAR and a .333 OBP in just over 500 at bats (good for 6th and 3rd, respectively, in the National League amongst shortstops with at least 500 ABs).

However, the story of the 2012 season starts back when, well, Ruben Tejada had no obligation to be playing baseball. See, the Mets were coming off of a disappointing season and subsequent off-season that saw a star player leave for a division rival. Many Mets arrived to camp early. Ruben Tejada arrived on February 25th, when he was asked to. Alderson said things. Terry Collins said things. The beat reporters latched on to the story. This, after all, was the guy supposed to grab shortstop by the reigns and run with it. This was the guy who, despite not being required to do so, was already getting crucified by his own coaching staff for, well, showing up on time. This, all before he stepped off of the plane in Port St. Lucie. This, because a 22-year-old didn't properly plan picking up his visa to get to camp early--something he intended to do. This, all when Ruben Tejada was the age of a college senior, one with a language barrier. This, all as a guy who showed up on time and had previously never done anything other than outperform most every one of his peers.

Still, 2012 was a very successful one for Ruben Tejada, following up an outstanding 2011 as a part-time player.

However, the supposed "coachability problems" did not stop there.

In 2013, coaches reported that Ruben Tejada came to camp out of shape. Members of the media again latched on to the story and Ruben Tejada had a terrible start to 2013. He made a surprising number of errors and despite his defensive numbers being above average, us fans knew better. It was because he was out of shape, of course. Right? Had to be. That's what the reports said. That's what the coaches said, after all.

His bat also took a major turn for the worse. By the time he broke his leg on a play on September 18th, he had a .202 average and a 49 wRC+ in 227 at bats, horrible numbers by any standard. His .228 BABIP, an unsustainably low number, compounded his woes, but yet again, fans knew better. It is because he came to camp out of shape. Coaches knew better. It is because he has a work ethic problems.

But why did Ruben Tejada have only 227 at bats in September? After a different leg injury in late May, the Mets sent Ruben to Vegas once he was healthy instead of putting him back on the 25-man roster. In a lost season, the Mets wanted to delay his free agency by a year to get him back on track before returning him to the big leagues. That exile, and his struggles, naturally, were Ruben Tejada's fault:

"You know, one of the problems with Ruben is, it's like pulling teeth. Extra batting practice, extra this, extra that, doesn't happen unless someone else is insisting on it. And that's what we need to see. We need to see a commitment to improvement", said General Manager Sandy Alderson during a broadcast booth interview.

Tejada rehabbed over the winter of '13-'14 and attended Mike Barwis' conditioning program in Michigan. Twice: in November for "phase one" and again in January for "phase two". On his own dime. Away from his family in Panama. Reports were that the Mets were pleased with his progress as well as those who joined him (players like Lucas Duda, Dominic Smith and Wilmer Flores). That should be good enough for the fan base, right? And the beat reporters? And the coaches? ...right?

February 24th, 2014:

A screenshot of Kevin Kernan's spring training coverage before the 2014 season. http://nypost.com/2014/02/24/frustrated-tejada-still-out-of-shape-mets-keep-eyes-on-drew/.


Despite spending his winter away from home, attending not one but two training camps on his own dime and committing himself to rehab, nutrition and fitness, word leaked out that the Mets still were not happy with his conditioning. 

However, it does not matter. Ruben Tejada has always been someone I would, if I were a scout, describe as having a thick lower half with a low center of gravity, not unlike how many scouts describe Michael Conforto. Despite his scale number or how he carries his pounds, Ruben Tejada never missed a beat in the field. He has been an excellent defender every year--even, supposedly, when he was "out of shape" and had a "poor physique coming into spring training". In fact, out of the 149 shortstops to play in the major leagues since 2010 (when Ruben made his major league debut) Ruben ranks 21st in defensive value out of those 149 shortstops despite 15 of the 20 shortstops ahead of him playing more innings. 

The above is a long way of saying this: His weight hasn't made a difference. Ruben Tejada's defense--the tool that got him to the big leagues, that made Mack Ade and John Sickels predict he would have a long career as a major league utility infielder--never suffered despite weight changes that, to be fair, may have been fabricated by a coaching staff fan base frustrated that he was not Jose Reyes. 

I went to spring training this year. I met Ruben Tejada, stood next to him, watched him play and saw what coaches mean when they say "out of shape". He is a thick guy. He carries 200 pounds on a frame that is generously listed as 5'11".

1.) Ruben Tejada's weight or how he carries it does not effect his defensive value. 
2.) Ruben Tejada is a major leaguer because of his defensive value. 

Because #1 above is true does not negate #2 or in any way change it. Fans need to realize that. Despite playing very solid defense at multiple positions in the major leagues, despite leg injuries and ruthless comments by his manager and his manager's manager and boos from fans and position changes and rumors and scrutiny, Ruben Tejada is still considered a second division player. He is still frequently considered someone who "has to go" for the current version of the Mets to take the next step. Odd, considering that his wRC+ (a very good encompassing metric for offensive production) is 83 for his career. I say odd because another player the Mets tried at shortstop who fans seem not to hate for whatever reason, also owns a career wRC+ of 83. I speak of Wilmer Flores, a player who seems to get a free pass because occasionally he hits home runs and has never been in his manager's doghouse. (That Flores' defense is inferior to Ruben Tejada's and his bat exactly as valuable is a comparison for another day). 

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Ruben Tejada has been, well, everything Ruben Tejada was always supposed to be. He is a very good defensive player who can play multiple positions on the infield, thrive in a supporting role and survive as the starting shortstop on a championship team assuming the rest of the supporting cast is more than adequate. What am I missing here?

Mets fans really need to stop being idiots when it comes to Ruben Tejada. 

But we're fans. Sandy Alderson likes to joke about the emotions of the average baseball fan and Ruben Amaro Jr. calls it exactly as he sees it vis-a-vis what the fans actually know about the game but at the end of the day, we are fans. Fans complain. Most fail to understand even the basics of the sport they cheer so ardently for. Many are, for lack of a more eloquent term, complete idiots. Considering that, I understand the unfair treatment of Ruben Tejada. I don't agree with it, but I understand it.

What is Alderson's excuse? What about Collins? What about an entire organization that seems unable to appreciate Ruben Tejada being exactly what Ruben Tejada was advertised to be

As easy as it is to ridicule baseball fans (and I believe a front office or a coaching staff has the right to parody its fan base), I am going to do the same thing to the Mets organization here. Because they have been and continue to be complete idiots when it comes to Ruben Tejada

Sound off in the comments section. I'm ready. 
 --SG

24 comments:

ZachBoyer said...

This is perfect! This is exactly how I feel about Tejada. Just didn't have the motivation/patience to write it all out! So thank you.

I, too, have nostalgic memories of Jose Reyes. But it's like Tejada's some kind of symbol for their futility. He's not. He's just Ruben Tejada, nothing more, nothing less. Makes no sense.

Metsiac said...

Well said, Stephen. I've been debating my friend Reese Kaplan about Ruben for years. He feels the kid (hes still younger than most rookies) should be no higher in the organization than AAA, even with no viable replacement.

Thomas Brennan said...

Nice, thoughtful analysis, Stevie.

My "hate" for Tejada has mostly been that this team plays him far too much over the years. We've seen Muno and some other "f-utility" busts, and if the Mets could get Ruben to a utility rather than starter role, I'd relent. I just don't want him starting at SS any longer than he has to, what with his lack of power and speed.

So my hate has been misdirected. it should be directed at the decision makers who have not acquired a real starting SS to allow Ruben to be what he should be. A Utility Guy. Which can make a major leaguer like Ruben a good living.

With Amed Rosario and Gavin Cecchini getting closer in 2016, and still unclear how good they may be, I suspect we may be seeing a lot of Ruben as a starter as the Mets hope for accelerated development of one of the two and a cheap in-house upgrade alternative.

Mack Ade said...

Since June 1, Ruben Tejada has 5 RBIs in 105 ABs or one fewer than Steven Matz has in his 2 starts

Thomas Brennan said...

Mack makes a good point in not overstating Ruben's value. Here is another: he has only had one or more hits in 10 of his last 22 games. That 12 games of zeros is a lot of oh-fers, and a lot of oh-fers can stir up feelings of disgust for fans who live an die by every game.

Stephen Guilbert said...

RBI are a product of opportunity, not skill. It's not a good evaluation metric. Read the article. It gives a much better sense of what Ruben is and what he isn't. No one is saying he's a good hitter.

Art Pesner said...

Perhaps it is the perceived lack of baseball "smarts". For instance, the botched squeeze play last week when he inexplicably ran past third base.

Anonymous said...

Through little fault of his own -- besides his half-hearted effort and poor results -- Ruben Tejada has come to represent the current GM's utter failure to bring in outside talent to upgrade glaring deficiencies on the ML roster.

Tejada is a second-division player, inherited by Alderson, hyped and overrated by the organization (and some foolish bloggers).

After Reyes left, Alderson has never moved to replace the SS. He still hasn't. Tejada's daily presence is a reminder of an inept, indifferent, and lazy GM.

I think he's a fair (at best) utility guy; the bat is brutal and unproductive. But on this current team, as composed, I think he should be the everyday SS.

When Tejada showed up, he arrived almost fully formed in terms of his skill set. Fans thought, hey, this guy is only 20, he's going to get better. But the reality was (and remains) that he's exceptionally slow & has not power. He can't learn those skills -- his talent is extremely limited -- though I suppose one could hold out the hope that he learns how to hit a tiny bit.

A better organization would have aggressively moved beyond this 3-time failure long ago.

But, please, condescendingly tell us what idiots we are because of the attitudes "we" supposedly have in our empty heads. That's what I'm looking for in a blog!

bob gregory said...

I think the information you put in your post answers your question.
Tejada is best suited as a utility player at this point.
The "idiot fans" are tired of seeing so many positions in the lineup being filled by players of similar utility-like performance.
He has been the consistent example of this over the years.
His example is amplified/magnified the more the others struggle.
The "hate" I do not believe is completely focused on Ruben himself. It is more regarding what he represents as lineup fillers that are disappointing.

I am sure Ruben would be a wonderful utility player or #9 hitter in a better lineup. Instead he has been filling the lead off spot, 2nd spot, 6th spot in the past few years.

Reese Kaplan said...

Since 2013 Ruben Tejada has hit a not-very-impressive .227. During those 727 ABs he's struck out 132 times, stolen 4 bases and been caught 4 times. That's pretty putrid. He's an above average defender but not at the Rey Ordonez level. Lately he's added value by not swinging the bat and taking some walks, but since he can't run, he's essentially a one dimensional player. I can see him as a backup but he in now way should be starting for a major league team.

Stephen Guilbert said...

This is why I stand by the title. If you're going to evaluate Ruben Tejada by his offense, you will not like him as a player.

But if you are, why don't you hold Wilmer Flores under the same scrutiny? He has been just as putrid offensively in his career as Ruben Tejada has. Without the defense.

Mack Ade said...

My comment was incorrect...

Since June 1, Ruben Tejada has 5 RBIs in 105 ABs or THE SAME Steven Matz has in his 2 starts

bob gregory said...

When I read the title of this article, my first thought was that it was another example of Alderson's famous statements directed at Met fans.

Stephen Guilbert said...

bob, there's some parody of Sandy Alderson in the article. The point of it is that yea, we are silly when it comes to player evaluation but we're allowed to be. We're fans. What's the organization's excuse?

Thomas Brennan said...

Is he a major leaguer? Sure - a low end utility one, one suited for the 100+ loss teams of Met years past. We need much better. We have had far too many of this type of guy over the years.

We had the opposite once, in Reyes. We had timid owners who, cash-strapped or otherwise, should have sucked it up and paid Reyes to stay. The only risk was him getting hurt. The added attendance from his charismatic and talented play would have paid his salary - and we'd have a true contender.

Thomas Brennan said...

my brother and I have debated Ruben many a time, as a starter or utility. He always is succinct: he sucks, get rid of him, he is the type of losing player this stupid franchise keeps playing when the Yankees would not. Now, the Yanks are scrambling a bit, too, this year, and churning thru some borderline guys, but it is rare. His name is Steve, too, and the name of his article, today, were he to write, would be "How Soon Can We Show This Bum the Door"?

Mack Ade said...

Stephen -

Seriously, I like Tejada much better at SS than Flores, though I do wish the Mets could upgrade at one of these positions so Tejada could become the super-utility infielder that would benefit the team more.

Tejada... Flores... even Herrera... I'm not sure anymore about the future of the Mets middle infield.

Zozo said...

I don't think we are idiots for not wanting him in the everyday lineup, and I don't recall anyone ever saying he couldn't even be a backup?
I am one that doesn't want him playing everyday and when we say bad stuff about him it is generally focused on upper managements placement of him in a roll he is not suited for.
Basically it's upper managements fault. Terry is just putting in who the best available is and since we don't have any better he wins by default.
Yes we like Flores bat but do give him a pass a bit because it is managements fault once again.
A) for moving him off the position a few years ago and then bringing him back
B) because management doesn't know how to construct a team.

Also I agree with you about Beltran not getting the love he greatly deserved. He is one of the best players ever to suit up for our team. He is remembered by most for that strikeout and the many injuries he had. If he could have stayed healthy he would have been even more monstrous. But I also have to blame management with the crappy way we heard their doctors handled the players.

The root of all evil comes from the very top and the way the shit flows down stream...

Great write up though....

eraff said...

Tejada is a Major League Middle Infielder---- That's either Praise, or Faint Praise

Stephen Guilbert said...

Mack, agreed. And you've had the scoop on Tejada years before anyone else even knew who he was. I just don't understand the animosity over a guy who is exactly the player people thought he would be.

kidnee3 said...

I've got to agree that the animosity toward Ruben has been unfair. Alderson and Collins have used him as a whipping boy for going on three years. Dudes, replace him or shut up already! It's this ugly shredding of ones players that made me hate Steinbrenner enough to become a Mets fan in the first place. It's also what made the Angels despise Collins enough to give him a no vote off confidence. I say show Collins and Alderson the door and bring in some young minds and hearts. Could we really do worse?

ZachBoyer said...

Yeah and then when that young brain comes in and he trades Wheeler away for some promising young prospect and Nimmo comes up and makes the ASG and D. Smith finally shows that HR power, you'll all be like "But those are all SANDY'S guys?!"

bob gregory said...

Zach
I am sure it will be very interesting years from now to compare the successes of Omar's drafted players to Alderson's.

Stephen Guilbert said...

Player development matters. I need to do a piece on this sometime soon but crediting Omar Minaya for Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz is hardly fair. Neither really pitched in his system. Credit to Minaya seeing the arm strength (but not the mechanics as both had TJS almost instantly) but Alderson's organization turned them into the pitchers they are today. There aren't many prospects that got worse under Alderson's watch (Puello? Vaughn?) Most got better. Silly to ignore that part regardless of who drafted them or signed them.

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