2012 New York Mets: Why Is Ruben Tejada's 'Late' Arrival Such a Big Deal?

Zachary PeterselFeatured ColumnistFebruary 25, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 18: Ruben Tejada #11 of the New York Mets fields a ground ball in the game against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on September 18, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. The Mets beat the Braves 7-5. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

Yesterday’s lead story out of Port St. Lucie was that Terry Collins intends to speak with Ruben Tejada about his early absence when he arrives to camp.

“There’s a process here when ‘you’re the guy.,'" Terry said. “Tejada is a big part of the puzzle. Maybe it’s eyewash at times, but it shows people he wants to be ready [by arriving early].”

I didn’t know we ran Spring Training on Lombardi time.

Don’t get me wrong—Ruben Tejada is an important player on the Mets. However, considering how much talent there is in the NL East, so is everyone else on the Mets roster. Just because Tejada did not arrive when pitchers and catchers reported, even if the position is his now to lose, does not mean he should be a focal point of Mets management and media.

It seems people are worried that his absence will hurt the team because he needs to develop chemistry with Daniel Murphy.

I don’t fully agree with that idea.

I agree that chemistry is important, but Murphy needs to put in a lot more time honing his craft than Tejada. To his credit, Murphy has already been in camp for two weeks to work with Tim Teufel to improve, but most, if not all of the things they are doing are one-on-one drills. Getting to second base for steals and ground balls and improving positioning and footwork are all very important for Murphy, but all of these things can be done with or without Tejada.

For all we know, letting Murphy getting comfortable on his own, before being thrown into actual situations with Tejada, will make the transition easier for when they are together. Outside of turning the double play (which they can work on throughout the entire month of March), there is not much they would be doing together.

Besides, I do not want to mess around with whatever Tejada has been doing to get ready for a full season—at this point in his career, he has been nothing short of outstanding.

As Mark Simon of ESPN points out, Tejada may already be one of the best defensive shortstops in the league. His 14.7 innings per out of zone play was the best rating in all of baseball. He also had 30 “good fielding plays” at shortstop last season, which also would have been tops in baseball if his numbers were projected for an entire season.

After playing last season as s 21 year old, these two ratings show only the beginning of his immense defensive abilities.

On top of that, he hit .284 last season with a .360 on-base percentage, accumulating 631 plate appearances before turning 22.  As Patrick Flood of Metsblog.com points out, only 213 people in baseball history have ever accumulated more than 500 at-bats before turning 22.

116 of those players were All-Stars at one point in their careers, and 48 of them have been elected into the Hall of Fame.

Not bad company.

At the end of the day, Tejada would have gotten more than enough media attention simply by replacing Jose Reyes. Now, he is going to have to deal with even more pressure and scrutiny because Terry Collins wanted him to show up early and “show people he wants to be ready”.

I want Tejada there early as much as Terry Collins does, but as the eighth hitter in the Mets lineup, Tejada should not be the focus of the Mets' camp. With Johan Santana’s three successful bullpen sessions and David Wright and Ike Davis being healthy in camp, the Mets should be focusing on these positives not the negatives.

Make it as easy as possible for this young 22 year old to succeed, because playing in the Major Leagues and replacing a Mets hero like Jose Reyes, is hard enough.