Tim Tebow, former Heisman-winning quarterback at the University of Florida, will never pinch-hit in a crucial spot in a Major League game. Or play in one. Let’s get that out of the way. He’s not good enough. Plus, he’s 29 (which translates to roughly 92 in baseball prospect years).
That’s why I think the Mets made a monumental mistake by placing him in the Arizona Fall League; a place usually for players on the cusp of the Majors and legitimate prospects.
I don’t fault the Mets for signing Tim Tebow for $100,000 on Sept. 8 — the maximum the team could pay him without being subject to a tax — because it was a sound business decision. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson hasn’t had much cash to play with since the Wilpons haven’t been pumping up the team’s payroll ever since they were nearly ruined by Bernie Madoff and his ponzi scheme. If Alderson felt Tebow could help the franchise generate revenue that could then help sign a player who could actually contribute for the Mets, the move makes more sense. However, it is disingenuous to suggest the six-figure sum was indicative of Tebow’s baseball skill.
Tebow jerseys, at least partially, generate that revenue. Generally, jerseys are sold only for players on a team’s active roster, but the Mets ensured that they could recoup that $100,000 (and more) without having to add the former quarterback to their 40-man roster.
“A so called ‘bridge agreement'” was worked out with jersey supplier Majestic, Major League Baseball spokesman Matt Bourne said in an email to USA TODAY Sports,” as reported by A.J. Perez on Sept. 19.
On the Mets team shop on MLB.com, the only players with jerseys above Tebow’s are the newly re-signed Yoenis Cespedes and ace pitcher Noah Syndergaard. Tebow’s number 15 jersey, the same number he wore in college at Florida, sits in the third row, priced at $119.99. In the eighth row, there’s a women’s Tebow jersey priced at $84.99.
Seems like those economics could work out in favor of the Amazins.
There’s nothing wrong with the Mets making money off of Tim Tebow via jersey sales. It’s why they signed him. Still, the organization sent the wrong message by placing him in the Arizona Fall League. The AFL serves as a training ground for the most promising players before they hit the big leagues. Nearly 60 percent of all AFL players make a Major League roster, according to the AFL site, a group that includes current and former stars such as Mike Trout, Mike Piazza, Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols, Bryce Harper, Kris Bryant and Roy Halladay.
Tebow won’t become part of that nearly 60 percent, but he does have 3.56 million followers on Twitter. The Mets’ verified account has less than 700,000.
Tebow’s numbers in the Fall League were pretty awful (he hit .194 in 62 at-bats); but he did improve towards the end of the season, batting .280 in his final eight games. (He went hitless in his first 13 at-bats.) I have no doubt Tebow gave it his all in the AFL. But the Fall League isn’t like NFL training camp, where teams can have 90 players competing to make the 53-man roster. Major League clubs can only have seven prospects from their farm system on their AFL team.
Jets fans remember Tebow. Gang Green traded for him in March 2012 and the team released him just 13 months later in April 2013. Tebow’s football skills far exceed his baseball ones; which is understandable, since his most recent competitive baseball came as a high school junior. If he’s able to produce awful but not atrocious numbers (.220 batting average with a modicum of power or speed would suffice), then I expect his part-time career as a pro baseball player will last longer than 13 months.
His bat and arm won’t get him to the big leagues, though; Tebow’s only path to Citi Field involves the Mets plummeting out of the pennant race and requiring an attendance boost. That’s why Tebow didn’t belong in the Fall League. In fact, his SEC Network gig as a network analyst prevented him from playing weekend games during the AFL season; fueling the belief that he isn’t completely committing to baseball. It’s tough to get to the top as a part-time player and a prime-time analyst.
Tebow is as committed to baseball as his prior commitments allowed. The Mets should treat him accordingly. Instead, the franchise went out of its way to accommodate his schedule at the expense of its more-talented prospects. Mets prospects like Gavin Cecchini, Matt Oberste and Champ Stuart were sidelined so Tebow could play; along with other outfielders on the Scottsdale Scorpions (Aaron Brown of the Phillies, Giants prospect Hunter Cole, Angels’ Michael Hermosilla and Yankees prospect Tyler Wade).
It seems the sport of baseball is a meritocracy… until you have five times more Twitter followers than your team.
Hero (Top) Feature Image: © Allen Kee / ESPN Images
Additional Images (in Order) Courtesy:
Phil Ellsworth / ESPN Images
Allen Kee / ESPN Images