Mets are demonstrating the dangers of signing Tim Tebow
By Zach Diamond
Tim Tebow is still with the New York Mets organization and there doesn’t look to be any end in sight.
I will admit, I own a Tim Tebow Mets t-shirt. I went to a Syracuse Mets game last April intoxicated by the novelty and humor of owning Tebow Mets merchandise. I didn’t particularly care about the other Syracuse players I was seeing on the field. I was most invested in seeing the New York Mets farmhand play professional baseball.
I bought into Tebow, which is exactly why he is apart of the Mets organization. However, the time has long passed for the Mets to move on from the Tebow experiment.
In August 2016, Tebow announced that he would be hosting a workout for all MLB teams in the hopes of pursuing a professional baseball career. In September, the Mets signed Tebow to a minor league contract worth $100,000.
At the time, GM Sandy Alderson told ESPN, “The notion that we’re going to spend $100,000-plus on a player so we can sell a couple of hundred dollars worth of T-shirts in Kingsport [Tennessee, home of the Kingsport Mets] — those economics don’t work. This was not about making money.”
Oh really? Signing Tim Tebow was not about making money?
ESPN’s Darrel Rovell reported that shortly after the Mets signed Tebow, he became the #1 best seller on MLB’s online shop, ahead of stars David Ortiz and Kris Bryant.
In 2017, when Tebow played for the St. Lucie Mets, the minor league team had the highest attended season in their history. In 2018, while playing for the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, the team had their highest attended season since their inaugural year in 1992. In 2019, the Syracuse Mets experienced an 18% attendance increase from the year before.
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To say that signing Tebow was not about money is obviously a massive lie. Other than being Tebow, there are no “baseball” justifications for giving a 29-year-old without pro baseball experience a contract.
Before signing with the Mets, Tebow hadn’t played baseball since high school.
It is dishonest to treat Tebow’s presence on the Mets as anything other than a money-making sideshow. While I think he has outperformed expectations, the turning 33-year-old Tebow should not be occupying an important high up roster spot from a young player trying to turn baseball into a long term career.
In Tebow’s defense, what he has done on the baseball field is impressive considering the context of his sports career. Tebow is an extraordinary athlete and the way he has adapted to pro baseball is a feat that more than 99% of people couldn’t pull off.
During Tebow’s first season splitting time between Single-A and Single-A+ in 2017, he had a .309 OBP and wRC+ of 94 (league average is 100). It isn’t exactly good, but it’s fairly impressive considering Tebow’s lack of a baseball history.
In 2018, Tebow was promoted to the Double-A Binghampton Rumble Ponies and was genuinely a decent league-average hitter. Regardless of how Tebow’s baseball career works out, he should be proud of his performance in Binghampton. Tebow had a .336 OBP and wRC+ of 106, which is slightly better than the league average.
The former Gators Heisman winner and Denver Broncos QB were able to handle Double-A pitching which is a remarkable feat.
Tebow showed significant and impressive improvement playing for the Rumble Ponies. He was much better at playing baseball than I ever would’ve expected. There were some issues, like striking out in 34.6% of his appearances. But, he showed he deserved to be there.
However, the Mets promoted Tebow to Triple-A to begin 2019. Tebow had a good year in Double-A, but he could have used some more time there to work out the kinks. His performance after being promoted to the Syracuse Mets was putrid.
Tebow had a .240 OBP and a wRC+ of 26 (!!!). His batting average was .163 and he slugged a whopping .255. Tebow struck out in 37.1% of his appearances, which is downright awful.
He had no business being in Triple-A and should have been sent back down to Binghampton during the season. Tebow demonstrated that he wasn’t able to handle Triple-A pitching and should not have spent the entire year in Syracuse.
The Syracuse Mets play at a stadium with 11,000 seats, whereas Binghampton’s stadium only fits 6,000 seats. Showcasing Tebow to their largest Minor league audience possible made Tebow’s presence in Syracuse feel more like a cash grab than a genuine baseball-driven decision.
Here lies the most dangerous part about signing Tebow, as the Mets let the quality of their baseball performance in Syracuse decline in exchange for an increase in profit. Given his horrible play, Tebow had no business being in Syracuse, and his spot on their roster potentially blocked a young player who was actually deserving of a promotion who could’ve helped the team.
Having Tebow play in the Mets minors system is all fun and dandy- until he interferes with the team’s baseball performance. At that point, it becomes enough already. The Mets should not value Tebow’s career over the play of the entire team and the careers of their young prospects who have dedicated their lives to baseball.
Tebow did not earn his professional baseball career- he was able to use his celebrity status to get a minor league baseball job. Tebow occupying the spot of someone who earned their baseball career through a lifetime of playing baseball should not have their careers blocked by a cash-grab sideshow.
Tebow has been able to accomplish amazing things on the baseball field during his three years with the Mets, greatly exceeding my expectations. However, with reports that Tebow will be in Syracuse again in 2020, a conversation needs to be had about how much quality baseball the Mets are willing to throw away in exchange for a little extra money.
If Tebow’s presence on a minor league team is going to make the performance of the team worse than the Tebow experiment is causing more harm than good. If Tebow’s presence blocks or interferes with the development of actual prospects than the Tebow experiment is causing more harm than good.
I do not consider Tebow’s tenure with the Mets to be a failure. What Tebow has been able to do on the baseball field after taking over a decade off from the sport is one of the most impressive things I’ve seen from an athlete in a very long time.
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However, Tebow has not demonstrated that he deserves to play at the highest minor league level, and the Mets should end the Tebow experiment before it starts hurting the long-term outlook of the organization.