I’ve heard the question posed on every sports media outlet for two weeks now: “If you could give out first-half awards, what would they be?”
I’ve heard Andrew McCutcheon’s name countless times for National League MVP of the first half and also our own beloved R.A. Dickey for first half NL Cy Young considerations.
However, if there were an actual award for most improved player, it would have to be Ruben Tejada. In the mere span of one offseason and half of a regular season, he has not only made us all but forget Jose Reyes’ ugly departure from New York, but he has played so well that he has given us a small glimmer of hope for the future. I could also throw in here that Daniel Murphy has vastly improved as well and continues to look more and more comfortable at second base.
Now if only we could get them all HITTING at the same time, we’d have ourselves quite a formidable infield.
I’m sure there were quite a few of us who were hesitant at best when we realized the hopes for filling Reyes’ shortstop shoes rested with Tejada. Sure, he had been a decent fill-in last year but he was still “wet behind the ears” and showed it more than once. Could he hack it as a full-time everyday starter at one of the most important defensive positions?
The answer, most happily, was yes… and then some.
Ruben has been brilliant on defense, already making some plays this year that are web-gem-worthy. Sure, he’s made a few mistakes, but who hasn’t? He looks sure of himself and confident at the position. And it’s not only on defense that he’s been getting it done.
He has single-handedly put together some of the most unbelievable, disciplined at-bats that have been seen in the league this year. He has the patience of a hawk circling its prey, waiting for pitchers to work themselves into full counts and waiting for his moment to strike. More often than not it pays off and he has been one of the key players in some of the Mets’ biggest clutch rallies this year.
What has struck me most about Ruben this year is his resilience. Earlier in the season, he suffered a quad injury and then a small setback while rehabbing. When it came time for his return, he took up his position and his bat as if he had never been away and picked up right where he left off.
Now, I no longer cringe when I see Tejada’s name in the lineup. The anxiousness has actually turned to confidence and I now see him as “one of the guys," although his interviews are painful to watch, poor thing.
So play on Ruben, play on. We’ll all be here watching and cheering for you.