An ex-Met on his old team’s propensity to smear
PHOENIX—On Friday morning, Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Justin Turner, late of the New York Mets, offered up a defense of current Mets shortstop (and frequent media target, thanks to leaks by his own team) Ruben Tejada.
"I think the issue is that nobody takes responsibility for what they say," Turner told me as we chatted in front of his spring training locker. "You've seen that with Tejada over the last few weeks. It's all 'a source said that they're not happy with him.' It's like, you know what? If you're gonna come out and gonna attack a guy's character, and his work ethic, be man enough to put your name on it. Don't say, 'This is off the record', and then off the record means they're gonna write it anyway."
Turner had an interesting perspective on this, given the circumstances surrounding his departure from the Mets. He played three seasons in New York, and was widely expected to return for a fourth in 2014. He played all four infield positions, and the Mets are not swimming in infield options beyond David Wright and Daniel Murphy. Moreover, his hustle and enthusiasm for the game had earned him the support of manager Terry Collins and others in the front office.
So it was puzzling when the Mets not only non-tendered Turner in December, but a "Mets official" leaked to Adam Rubin that the reason the Mets had gotten tired of Turner not running hard. It was the kind of story easily dismissed by anyone who'd watched the Mets play, and SNY's Kevin Burkhardt, for one, took to Twitter to do just that.
"Obviously, I got a lot of support from a lot of our writers over there," Turner said. "Kevin just chose to do it a little more publicly, which, it was nice to read. I appreciate that from Kevin, and he pays attention, he does a really good job at what he does. And that's obviously why he's moving up the ladder at a crazy rate right now."
According to Turner, the writers who cover the Mets are more concerned with non-baseball matters than the writers in Los Angeles he's encountered since coming to the Dodgers.
"So far here, I've only done stories about baseball stuff," Turner said. "In New York, it doesn't matter what it is, everything's a story, and they want to know everything about it. It turns into a big ordeal. Stuff that doesn't even matter."
But ultimately, the media is only reporting these stories, which have originated from sources within the Mets, and so often contain negative observations about their own players. Carlos Beltran talked earlier this month about being smeared by the Mets when he played with them. Jose Reyes once had to hold a teary press conference to defend his desire to return to the field after the Mets leaked damaging assertions about his character, and followed it by prematurely returning and further injuring himself. Ike Davis, R.A. Dickey ... the list of Mets who have had to defend themselves against their own team is a long one.
Tejada is playing horribly this spring, with four errors already, after a 2013 season in which he hit .202 and struggled in the field. The public floggings don't seem to be helping.
From his perch in Los Angeles (where, shortly after we finished speaking, he learned he'd made the Dodgers), Turner said he really couldn't explain why the Mets do it.
"I don't have that answer for you," Turner said. "I've been there for three years. All I can do is say if I was running an organization, in charge of it, I would look at all my players as assets, and want to build them up. So even if I didn't want them to be on my team, they would have value. But for some reason, I don't know, that's not the thought process over there.
"Like I said, I'm happy where I am now."