On Saturday afternoon, Chase Utley broke Ruben Tejada's leg on a dirty play that helped the Dodgers win game two of the NLDS.
As I was watching the events unfold, all I could feel was anger. Chase Utley angered me, the umpiring angered me, the review process and the MLB angered me, and the responses I heard from personalities around baseball angered me. The loss angered me. Losing Ruben Tejada angered me.
After the anger subsided, though, all that remained was profound and deep sadness for Ruben Tejada. Because even if the umpires got the call right, even if they called interference, even if the league suspended Utley indefinitely and even if the Mets ended up winning game two, Ruben Tejada's season was over when Chase Utley decided tackling is legal in baseball.
Now nursing a broken fibula, Ruben Tejada will not play baseball for the Mets until the 2016 season commences. Ruben Tejada will not get to compete with a promising Mets team trying to go deep into the playoffs. Ruben Tejada might not have another shot at the role he had for the Mets when these playoffs began.
No, Tejada is not some aging player whose career will end from this injury. On the contrary, he is not yet even 26 and has plenty of good years of baseball left. Just not likely as the starting shortstop of this good New York Mets team.
After a tumultuous, oft-scrutinized and frequently bizarre start to his major league career, Tejada finally settled in this year. He starting hitting better while exhibiting the patience and eye at the plate that made him a major leaguer in the first place. He even seemingly won the starting shortstop job for the playoffs from Wilmer Flores. This is all incredible considering how little the Mets organization, or fans, seemed interested in Ruben Tejada as a starting shortstop at all for this team. I covered that issue at length here. Needless to say, Ruben Tejada got an opportunity--perhaps his last--and ran with it.
Next year, however, the Mets come to camp with Wilmer Flores and Matt Reynolds to compete with Ruben Tejada to start the year. That is, if they don't get a shortstop in the off-season--something that has been on Sandy Alderson's agenda for years, or so it seems. Past that trio, Gavin Cecchini will start the year in Triple-A Las Vegas and will need to only cross the arbitration and Super-Two cutoffs before he is ready. Dominican phenom Amed Rosario is only a year behind him. Needless to say, the Mets have depth at shortstop. Young depth. Lots of it. They also have a shortstop who played very well this year in Wilmer Flores who won't be coming off a broken leg. Ruben Tejada will probably have a spot on next year's roster. He will probably not be the #1 shortstop in Flushing again.
What makes Utley's play so disheartening is that Ruben Tejada's shot at being the starting shortstop for a championship-seeking Mets team is probably over. While there are some paths in which Ruben Tejada wins the starting shortstop next year, keeps it all year and into the playoffs and the Mets are even in the playoffs, there are far more in which he is a utility player, on another team, in the minors, or any combination of the three. And that's sad. Tejada played his heart out this season. He played very good baseball and helped the 2015 Mets make the playoffs. Now he has to watch his teammates play while he hobbles around on crutches because an unevolved, dirty player who built his career off of exploiting unenforced rules broke his leg on a play that would be illegal in every professional sport.
Chase Utley will not get to play the next two games because of his actions. The Mets lost the game because of the play and their NLDS hopes took a big hit. For Ruben, though, he has to watch the rest of this season from the dugout and there is no going back from that. Whether or not he has another shot at starting in the playoffs for a really good team is yet to be seen. But we shouldn't have to wonder that at this point. And that sucks. It really sucks.