Imagine this...Your a 22 year old kid from Panama and your impending task is to fill the shoes of one of the most exciting players to ever play baseball in the biggest sports market in the country. What’s the last thing anyone will remember about your predecessor? Only his career year that delivered the first batting title in franchise history. Poor Ruben Tejada doesn't stand a chance...
If the Mets cannot retain Jose Reyes this offseason, Tejada will almost without question be the opening day shortstop. He will assume these full-time duties younger (four months) than Reyes did in 2005, despite not being half the prospect. Furthermore, Jose Reyes took over the position from severely disliked Kaz Matsui, who fans were already trying to and eventually did drive out of town. Tejada won't have that luxury as he will inherit the job with a disgruntled fan base sure to point out his obvious deficiencies.
To be fair, Ruben Tejada is not a bad ballplayer. In 376 plate appearances last season, he hit .284 and actually has an identical career fielding percentage (.973) to Jose Reyes. However, the truth is that Tejada struggled mightily at shortstop and doesn't possess the cannon arm Mets fans are used to from that part of the diamond. Furthermore and probably most importantly, he does not possess the flash and excitement that Reyes provides having mounted exactly one triple and only seven stolen bases in 174 games at the major league level.
This drop off in production will only exacerbate the fan base’s dissatisfaction with the fact that he’s standing at shortstop next season, which won’t be his fault one bit. These are not ideal circumstances for the youngster to assume the role and it will likely test his maturity early on if things don’t get off to a solid start. He may learn quickly, whether its fair or not, that this franchise is not in a good place right now as fans may target him as the poster boy for that downturn.
Ultimately, team success may be the only thing that saves Ruben Tejada in Queens. Fans shouldn't expect him to match the offensive numbers of his predecessor, but they will. He has huge shoes to fill, and he by himself probably isn't up to the task.
Follow me on Twitter @RobPatterson83