Legends On Deck

Mets Give Up On TJ Rivera, But Nationals Land A Gem

The New York Mets have a way of knowing how to get rid of talented ball players, to only see them strive with another organization, and the Nationals may be that next team to benefit.

Many who have followed my posts, know that I support all ball players, especially the ones that do not get the credit they deserve.

In 2011, the Mets signed T.J. Rivera as an undrafted free agent and for the following five seasons, all Rivera did was hit and hit and hit.  Finally after the Mets came out of their coma, they rewarded the Bronx, NY native with a promotion to the big leagues on August 10, 2016. That season Rivera helped the Mets win a Wild Card spot, as he hit .333 (35 for 105), with three home runs and 17 RBIs through 33 games, while starting nearly every game down the stretch.

In 2017, Rivera batted .290 (62 for 214) with 13 doubles, a triple, five home runs and 27 RBIs before going down with a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow in late July. Rivera missed the rest of the 2017 season and all of the 2018 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

As Rivera rehabbed his arm, he had some setbacks, but none bigger then when the Mets decided that they would release him on March 9, 2019, while he was working his way back to the field. A slap in the face to a ball player that did everything the organization asked and more since he was signed back in 2011.

Instead of believing what the Mets believed, that he was not able to help an organization, Rivera stayed focused on his goal to return to the Majors.

In early July, Rivera started his journey back to the field as he signed with the Long Island Ducks, an Independent team in the Atlantic League known to have had other former major league players on their roster looking for a second shot.

Rivera was invited to join the club by Wally Backman, the Ducks current manager and former skipper in the Mets minor league System. Rivera accepted the opportunity, even if it meant starting from the bottom again.

In 23 games with the Ducks, Rivera batted .270 (24 for 89), with two doubles, four home runs and 16 RBIs. And it didn’t take long to impress, as the Washington Nationals took a chance on Rivera and signed him to a minor league contract on August 3rd, giving Rivera what he had hoped for, a chance to get back to the big leagues, where he and his loyal supporters know he belongs.

The ironic part of the signing, coincides with the Mets losing second baseman Robinson Cano to a hamstring tear on Monday. All Star Jeff McNeil, who was tabbed to take over second base in place of Cano, has played both second and the outfield since Cano’s injury, as the Mets are now looking at possibly adding free agent second baseman Joe Panik, who was released by the San Francisco Giants.  Before his release, Panik, who is a New York native, was batting .235, with 17 doubles, three home runs, and 27 RBIs in 344 at bats.

There really isn’t any reason to seek a second baseman when the Mets have McNeil, a natural second baseman, who also leads the majors with a .339 batting average. They also have other infielders in the minors that can get the job done if needed. Just another waste of a move, like they did when they released Rivera.

But now Rivera gets a shot with the Nationals, and the hope is that his lethal bat can be added to the big league roster to help the team down the stretch, as they lead the 1st Wild Card spot by two games.

Rivera is currently with Double-A Harrisburg, and the mindset is, its closer to the big league home ball park then their Triple-A club.

The Mets are playing great baseball and only find themselves .5 game out of the second Wild Card spot. But with the Nats ahead of them, it would be ironic if TJ Rivera came up with the clutch hit to knock the Mets out of the playoff hunt. Many strange things have happened in the game and this would probably be the greatest redemption for any ball player and one that may make most Mets fans shake their head and say, ‘Yep, the Mets let another great one get away again.’

That will be left up to the baseball Gods to decide. But could be a great part of Rivera’s journey back to the bigs.

The journey starts again to prove that he belongs back in the majors, but the Bronx, NY native has been down this road before and has succeeded. No reason why he won’t again.

Good luck TJ as you make your way back to where you belong!!!

David Conde
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