(Long Island, N.Y.) First impressions last. Especially when you’re being handed an important job and taking over for a perennial All-Star. So it would have been a smart move by Ruben Tejada to be one of the first members of the New York Mets to report for Spring Training. That was not the case.
Although he was technically on time for the mandatory positions player reporting date, manager Terry Collins had hoped that Tejada would have made his way from his native Panama to Port St. Lucie, Florida as early as January to not only get himself accustomed to the rigors of playing every day it the major leagues, but work with his double play partner, second baseman Daniel Murphy, who is not exactly a candidate for a Gold Glove Award.
Collins expressed some frustration when meeting with the media before Tejada arrived and spoke about what he was going to convey to his new shortstop. “We need to get out of the gate first,” he told reporters. “We need to get a head start here. You’ve got a new second baseman you need to work with, and it would have been nice for you to get down here and get started.”
The two had a closed door meeting upon Tejada’s clubhouse entrance and both made it seem as if it is over and done with and now it’s time to get to work. Tejada did arrive in excellent shape and had been working with a personal trainer back home. He apparently did not apply for his visa in time and some logistics – such as the office being closed due to a holiday- prevented him from leaving.
But this is a small detail that the youngster should have been aware of months ago and ensured that nothing held him up from being in camp early. There should have been no miscommunication and Tejada should have either spoken to Collins directly or had a trusted translator do so with him standing by.
“Hi, Terry. Happy New Year to you and your family. Can’t wait to see you in the Sunshine State soon. What day do you want me to be there? OK, I’ll see you the day before that.”
You get the point. When you are being entrusted with such a pivotal position on the field and are inheriting it from Jose Reyes, making a good impression on your boss should be a no-brainer. The rest of the infield has been here and getting in some extra work and for a team that is being picked as an also-ran, a few added ground balls and swings in the cage would not have hurt.
The slightly built Tejada did show some improvement in his physique with an additional 10 pounds. That will help him during the dog days and the 21-year-old is expected to hold the fort down up the middle with Murphy not having too much range. At the plate, Tejada’s .262 average over five minor league seasons makes him a huge drop off from Reyes on the offensive side of things. So he needs to be on-point defensively.
Hopefully Tejada learned a lesson from this and will be extra cognizant of his manager’s wishes going forward.