NEW YORK -- Let's not pretend that the New York Mets have always believed in Ruben Tejada, or even that they fully believe in him now. Let's remember that before the Mets turned to Tejada as the latest stand-in for David Wright, they tried Eric Campbell, Daniel Murphy (with Dilson Herrera at second base) and then Campbell again.
Heck, before this weekend, Danny Muno had as many starts at third base as Tejada.
That said, third base has been such a problem for the Mets since Wright got hurt that it only takes two or three good games for the latest fill-in to claim the job as his. Now Tejada has had his two or three good games, the latest coming Sunday when his tie-breaking double in the seventh inning sent the Mets to a 4-3 win over the Miami Marlins.
And that led manager Terry Collins to declare -- sort of -- that Tejada is his third baseman.
"Right now he is," Collins said. "He's earned it. He can do a lot of things when he's playing well. Right now, he's playing well."
The Mets expect to have some sort of update on Wright within the next couple of days, and they expect to see their injured third baseman in person on Tuesday in San Diego. Whatever the update is, though, it's clear that Wright isn't going to be back playing for the Mets very soon, so someone else will need to play third.
For now, that someone else is the guy who was once supposed to be their shortstop.
Any discussion of Tejada is colored by that failure, that repeated failure. Even in praising Tejada for what he did over the weekend, Collins couldn't help but return to Tejada's earlier issues.
"My problem with Ruben -- I used to think I could get a guy to step up a little," Collins said. "I'm 0-for-3 with him. For three years, we said, 'The [shortstop] job is yours, go get it.'
"He just didn't rise to the occasion."
The Mets certainly have believed in Tejada's abilities more than they have in his powers of self-motivation. Even Sunday, Tejada seemed to confirm all the bad feelings about him when he was asked whether he ever became discouraged at not playing more in the first two months of this season.
"No," he said. "I just stay focused and wait for the opportunity."
The opportunity came when all the other applicants at third base dropped out. Collins went to Tejada before the Marlins series and told him he would play all three games (the first time this season he started three games in a row).
"I told him at no time have we needed him as much as we do now," Collins said.
Tejada responded with five hits in 12 at-bats in the three games, driving in three runs Saturday and driving in the biggest run of the game Sunday.
"I'm really pleased," Collins said. "I'm extremely pleased. It's real promising. We needed someone to step in there and give us some offense."
For three days, Tejada did just that. He earned a chance to call himself the Mets third baseman, at least for another two or three days.
But let's not pretend that the Mets are now committed to him.