By Ernie Palladino
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Like Nero, Sandy Alderson fiddles around while the Mets burn.
Among other things — a decision on the immediate major league future of Noah Syndergaard and that Ike Davis-Lucas Duda battle of Titans at first base — they have a real problem at shortstop. And Alderson right now is inclined to do nothing about it.
Ruben Tejada, an otherwise pleasant fellow but a player who should never be confused with that aged shortstop great across town, has that position’s fate in his hands right now. And that begs the question: “How comfortable could Alderson feel with that situation, given his 90-win goal for 2014?”
The answer for any attentive observer should be, “He can’t.” Yet, with talent like Boston’s Stephen Drew sitting on the open market, ripe for picking, Alderson has decided to let spring training play out before even contemplating a move.
That in itself is a bad move. Tejada is struggling mightily. The average over his eight games sits at .091, with two hits in 22 at-bats. He also has a team-high four errors.
Granted, this is March. Even great players often look horrible in spring training. It’s just not a time for compiling impressive stats, and those who do often fall flat when the real competition begins.
But there is cause for concern. Like any other team, the Mets need to be strong up the middle if they expect to have any sort of meaningful season, and they’re not. The catching situation is dubious at best with Travis d’Arnaud hitting under .200. Anthony Recker is hitting .250, and he could prove solid again as a backup. But backups don’t win you 90 games.
At least they have a second baseman. One can’t say enough about Daniel Murphy’s production. As this team is constituted, he and third baseman David Wright are the two faces of the offense.
Juan Lagares put up nice numbers in 10 games in center at .281, but he could well be one of those guys who fail to have that offensive carryover. He did prove himself a wonderful fielder last year, however.
Drew is said to be looking for $14 million, and there is talk that he’ll be willing to sit out until June, when teams won’t have to pay third-round draft compensation for signing him. For Alderson to even entertain those thoughts would be fatal, since he would be sacrificing nearly half a season at that point.
There are other options besides the 30-year-old Red Sox shortstop, however. Seattle’s Nick Franklin apparently caught his fancy, and a trade could be worked out. But The Post reported that the teams haven’t had any substantive trade talks since the Winter Meetings.
So the Mets sit. If Tejada doesn’t come around, the next immediate options are Wilmer Flores and Omar Quintanilla. Neither is considered more of a backup. They excite no one.
Alderson needs to do something, at least to give the suffering fan base hope for a decent season. But sitting on Tejada and hoping he reverts to the 2011 and 2012 form that showed him a solid fielder and a passable hitter at the top of the lineup, well, that’s just wishing.
Typical Mets. Drew’s price tag is too high? Don’t pay. The timing of the signing would force them to give up a draft pick? Don’t sign until he comes for free.
Drew might not make it that far. Some other team with a more proactive executive hierarchy, might just snatch him up before Opening Day. Alderson will have missed his opportunity.
But don’t worry. The Mets have Ruben Tejada.
He’ll make everything right at shortstop.
Or he won’t.
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