Yesterday, the Mets made the announcement of the non-roster invitations to Spring Training. If you follow the minor leagues closely, you saw some interesting names who may help the Mets in 2020 like Kevin Smith, Patrick Mazeika, and Ryley Gilliam. Of course, none of those names garnered attention.
The headline as usual was Tim Tebow.
On the surface, inviting Tebow to Spring Training isn’t that big of a deal. After all, the Mets once invited country music star Garth Brooks to Spring Training in 2000 as part of the singer’s promotion of his Teammates for Kids charity.
It should be noted Brooks participated during the 2000 Spring Training, which was the year the Mets won the fourth pennant in their history. In the end, these celebrity and gimmick appearances at Spring Training really have no impact, and at the end of the day, it really doesn’t serve as any sort of distraction.
To his credit, Tebow hasn’t been a distraction during Spring Training. Rather, he is a draw due to his popularity, especially in the Florida area from which he hails. Honestly, if he is there drawing people to St. Lucie making money for the Mets, it’s not a bad thing at all.
The real problem is what happens afterwards.
To put things in perspective, last year Tebow hit .163/.240/.255 in 77 games for Triple-A Syracuse before succumbing to a season ending hand injury. While you could argue he had handled himself well in the lower levels of the minors, especially with a 106 wRC+ for Double-A Binghamton, he was completely over-matched last year.
Part of the problem appears to be his level of dedication.
We have seen Tebow travel and work with the SEC Network during the offseasons. Of note, he has previously left the Instructional Leagues to attend to those duties. On that note, he has also scheduled his charity golf outings during Spring Training, and as a result, he has left Spring Training for a day or two to attend to the golf outings for the charity he purportedly runs.
Now, you can argue this is not entirely fair to bring up because players do all sorts of stuff during their offseasons and during Spring Training. Plenty of players golf and do TV work as well as other things. While true, the level of dedication needed to be a top analyst is different than a promotional television or radio spot.
More to the point, Tebow has suffered season ending hand injuries in two successive seasons. You can make a very real and fair point he is just not getting himself the necessary training he needs to get himself into baseball shape. This is also besides the point.
Last year, the Mets had Tebow play in 77 of the team’s first 100 games despite the fact he probably deserved to play in none of them. While that was happening, Dilson Herrera was not getting any time in the outfield to help prepare him to be a useful Major League utility player. We also saw players like David Thompson get demoted partially due to a roster crunch.
It’s more than that. There were players like Jason Krizan who waited far too long in Binghamton before a move up to Triple-A. The same could be said for a Sam Haggerty who did eventually receive a call-up to the majors. The overriding point here is the Mets have allowed Tebow’s presence to interfere with the development of players who could have helped contribute in 2019 and potentially in 2020.
While it is fair to say part of the reason Tebow is getting these chances is because of how thin the Mets outfield is at the upper levels of the farm system, we are also seeing Tebow’s presence is serving as a hindrance to the Mets even giving players a look in the outfield.
Ultimately, when you have a player who is 32 years old and cannot get himself in sufficient shape to last a full season, he simply does not merit this amount of playing time. That’s why at the end of the day Brodie Van Wagenen has to do what’s right by the Mets and not by his former client and treat Tebow like the 32 year old non-prospect he is.
Tim Tebow is a problem because the Mets are making him one. So far, he has played in 60 of Syracuse’s first 79 games. Essentially, this means he is playing fairly regularly despite his hitting just .150/.232/.209. It should come as little surprise he’s not getting better with June being his worst month of the season.
If the Mets problems handling the player assignments and playing time at the Double-A and Triple-A level were limited only to Tebow, you can overlook things a bit. After all, whether you like to admit it or not, the Mets operate a business, and they are going to attempt to use Tebow to generate revenue for their newly acquired Syracuse franchise. Unfortunately, the problems run deeper than Tebow.
Entering the season, the Mets had a glut of infielders with Robinson Cano, J.D. Davis, Todd Frazier, Jed Lowrie, Jeff McNeil, and Amed Rosario. The Mets added to this glut by first signing and then calling up Adeiny Hechavarria. Considering the situation, the last thing the Mets needed were veterans taking up space on the Syracuse infield.
Despite that, the Mets signed Danny Espinosa, who is a career .221/.297/.344 hitter and hit .197/.286/.344 between 2016-2017 and did not play in the majors last year. To make matters worse, he leads the team in games played. Second on the team is Travis Taijeron, who has established himself as not being a Major League caliber player. Fourth in games played is Gregor Blanco, who hit .217/.262/.317 last year.
Those three players right there are not just taking up space on the roster, but it is also taking away at-bats from players who truly needed it.
It’s easy to forget Dilson Herrera is just 25 years old, but he is making him a young player with potential to develop. To be fair, he is third on the team in games played. However, it was not until recently the team has sought to develop him more into a utility player. Prior to June, he had only played two full games in left field and none at any other position but second and third.
To be useful to the organization, Herrera needed to be playing first, second, third, and all three outfield positions. However, he can’t partially because those spots are taken by Espinosa, Taijeron, and Blanco, three players who were never going to be a factor for the Mets in 2019. When you add Tebow, that’s four.
This has a necessary trickle down effect. Players like David Thompson and Gavin Cecchini, who just came off the IL, have been assigned to Binghamton. At this stage in their professional development, they need to be in Triple-A working on things. For both, that means become more versatile and becoming better hitters. However, they can’t be in Syracuse getting regular playing time because the Mets are wasting playing time on two has beens and two never will bes.
Those players being in Binghamton has a trickle down effect interfering with playing time for players like Luis Carpio. Carpio was someone once regarded as a top prospect, but he would suffer shoulder injuries. On that front, he has gotten healthy and shown some promise. Of course, that promise only goes as far as the team’s willingness and ability to get him playing time.
There are other issues like Braxton Lee, a 25 year old who plays good defense and has good speed, being forced to Double-A instead of getting real development time in Syracuse. There’s also the fact Luis Guillorme is in Triple-A splitting middle infield playing time instead of just playing over Hechavarria at the Major League level.
Really, the list goes on and on, and that is before you consider Rene Rivera catching everyday leaves the Mets having Patrick Mazeika and Ali Sanchez sharing catching duties in Binghamton instead of them being split up to allow them both to get regular playing time and thrive.
While we rightfully focus on what has transpired with the Mets, the organization’s problems run deeper than just the team in Queens. The same shortsightedness and reliance on under-performing players over promising young players is also very present in Triple-A.
If things continue this way, this will prove to be not just a lost season in Queens but Syracuse as well.
With Jed Lowrie and Todd Frazier suffering injuries during Spring Training, the Mets depth is being tested early. Most will point to how this clears the path for Pete Alonso. You could see how this in an opportunity for J.D. Davis. While the Mets may not initially want to move Jeff McNeil to third, if they would it could present an opportunity for Dominic Smith to make the roster.
Francesa on the #Mets injuries to Lowrie/Frazier: "What it does is two things. Number 1: it opens up a bigger opportunity for Alonso and I hate to say this, but it opens up a bigger opportunity for Tebow to start the season on the big team.''
— Brian Monzo (@BMonzoRadio) February 26, 2019
Okay, well almost anybody. Really, to suggest Tim Tebow has an opportunity to make the Opening Day roster borders on the absurd. Really, just look at the Mets complete left field depth chart:
- Michael Conforto
- Jeff McNeil
- Brandon Nimmo
- Juan Lagares
- Keon Broxton
- Rajai Davis
- Gregor Blanco
- J.D. Davis
- Rymer Liriano
- Dominic Smith
- T.J. Rivera
- Dilson Herrera
- Danny Espinosa
- Kevin Kaczmarski
- Braxton Lee
Also consider the Mets have the option to move players like Cecchini to the outfield. As the season progresses, players like Desmond Lindsay may move ahead of Tebow. However, this is about right now, and right now there is nothing to suggest Tebow is anywhere close enough to cracking the Mets Opening Day roster. Really, the mere suggestion of it is beyond absurd.
Assuming the Mets carry five bench spots, which is the norm for a National League team, the race for the last spot on the bench became much more crowded and complicated with the team’s signing of Adeiny Hechavarria. That question becomes further complicated when you question just what exactly the Mets real intentions are with Peter Alonso.
Assuming Alonso begins the season in Triple-A, the Mets already have bench spots allocated to Travis d’Arnaud and Keon Broxton. One of Juan Lagares or Jeff McNeil is going to play everyday meaning the other is going to be on the bench. That is three bench spots spoken for with two remaining. It will be interesting to see how this shakes out.
Considering the Mets parted with a package headlined by Luis Santana in what has been an oft criticized trade, you could see the pressure to carry J.D. Davis. Aside from the pressure, whether it be real or imagined, Davis does have the ability to play both corner infield spots adequately, and despite his deficiencies out there, the does have outfield experience.
The real positive for Davis is the power he could provide off the bench, but in order for that to be realized, he is going to have to increase the launch angle in his swing and his corresponding high ground ball rates. There is also a real question whether Chili Davis is the hitting coach to get him to realize his full power potential.
If the Mets are looking for a versatile infielder who can play the outfield, there is forgotten man T.J. Rivera. Rivera missed last season due to Tommy John surgery, but reports this Spring have been overly positive. While we know Rivera is not a particularly good defender, the Mets also know Rivera can be trusted to start at any position over a long stretch. Between the 2017 season and the World Baseball Classic, we have also seen him able to raise his game in big games.
The issue both players have is neither plays shortstop. For that matter, neither does Jed Lowrie, which arguably led to the Mets signing Hechavarria to a minor league deal. The one thing we do know with Hechavarria is he can play shortstop and play it well. Over the last four seasons combined, he has amassed a 26 DRS. The problem with him is he can’t hit as evidenced by his career 72 wRC+.
Hitting was also an issue for Luis Guillorme. In his brief time with the Mets, he was only able to muster a 53 wRC+ in 35 games. That is partially because Guillorme received uneven playing time. It is also because he has never been considered to be a great hitter. Still, there are two factors in Guillorme’s favor. First, like Hechavarria, he is a good defender. Second, Guillorme did show himself to be an adept pinch hitter last year hitting .273/.467/.364 in 15 pinch hitting appearances.
Now, if the Mets are looking for a more offensive oriented middle infielder who could play shortstop, the team does have Gavin Cecchini. Heading into last season, Cecchini had worked on his swing, and it had paid dividends with him hitting .294/.342/.468 in 30 games for Las Vegas before fouling a ball off his leg effectively ending his season. If Cecchini shows he is able to hit the same way, he could make a case for a bench spot for himself.
Standing in Cecchini’s way is his not being on the 40 man roster and his shortstop defense having pushed him to second base. The same could also be true for Dilson Herrera. For his part, Herrera was never truly considered anything more than a second baseman and that was before his shoulder injury. That shoulder injury cost him some of his offensive output until he rediscovered his stroke last year hitting .297/.367/.465 for the Reds Triple-A affiliate.
One other overlooked name for the Opening Day bench is Dominic Smith. If Alonso were to start the year in Triple-A, the Mets would have to find playing time for Alonso, Gregor Blanco, Rajai Davis, Rymer Liriano, and Tim Tebow between first base, three infield spots, and DH. Even with how down the team may be on Smith, it is difficult to believe they would leave him in Syracuse to fight for playing time between those three spots.
Instead, the team could carry him on the Major League roster. Certainly, Smith reporting to camp with not just his keeping the weight off but also adding muscle, helps improve his chances. His being a good defensive first baseman capable of playing left field in a pinch should also help him.
Of course, Smith would have to compete with all of the aforementioned players as well as Danny Espinosa just to claim a bench spot. He would also have to count on the team not putting Alonso on the Opening Day roster, which judging from the improvements Alonso has made, is not a safe assumption.
Really, when breaking it down, the Mets have plenty of options to fill out their bench, and ultimately for this team to reach its full potential, they are going to have to find the right mix of players to complement their everyday players. Hopefully, everyone comes to play making this as difficult a decision as the Mets will have all year.
Right now, the Mets starting outfield is likely Michael Conforto–Juan Lagares–Brandon Nimmo. Now, there is every reason to believe that could be a good outfield. Nimmo was the second best hitter in the National League last year, and Conforto returned to his All-Star form at the close of the season. There are reasons to question Lagares’ bat, but when he plays, he is a Gold Glove outfielder.
The Mets have every reason to believe that when they play this trio they are putting a winning team on the field. Their problem is what happens when they don’t play.
Right now, the first man up is Keon Broxton. Over the last two years, Broxton has hit .213/.296/.419 with an 85 OPS+ over the past two years. While he did post excellent 11 DRS in just 134.1 innings last year, he was a -7 DRS in his only full season in center. He does have elite speed, which suggests he can be a plus defender next year, but there is nothing to suggest he can hit at all.
The Mets are also betting on Jeff McNeil in the outfield. Considering his sprint speed and his baseball IQ, there is every reason to believe he can play out there. However, there is a question about whether he can hit like he did last year. Lost in his excellent numbers was the fact McNeil had a 5.6 percent walk rate and a .359 BABIP. Those types of numbers are only sustainable if your name is Ichiro Suzuki.
Now, it should be noted it is perfectly reasonable to expect McNeil to be a quality Major League bench player, and he has shown you can trust him to play long stretches of time. If he is pressed into duty, the Mets and Mets fans should feel comfortable. However, what should bother everyone is the complete lack of depth behind him.
With respect to him, the reason why you play him in the outfield is because he has a strong arm, and there really isn’t room for him in the infield. However, it is not a long term or even a short term solution as he is slow footed making his play out there a bad idea. For Mets fans, you may assume this refers to Smith because of what you saw with him last year. It is, but the same statements also apply to Davis.
As for Davis, it should also be noted he has hit .190/.260/.321 in 444 Major League plate appearances. It should be noted that is worse than the .210/.259/.406 in 332 Major League plate appearances which has caused Mets fans to become frustrated with and sour on Smith. Put another way, if you don’t believe in Smith, you should not be believing in Davis, at least not as an outfielder.
After this group, you have to actually consider Tim Tebow. Sadly, that’s not a joke. Well, it is a joke, but only to the extent where the Mets could actually be in a position to be forced to consider him.
When you are discussing players like Byrd and Blanco, and when Tebow even enters the discussion, it is clear the Mets outfield depth is completely lacking. Sure, we can believe in McNeil while liking Broxton’s defense, but in the end, the Mets don’t have enough depth across the outfield.
This all needs to be considered when Brodie Van Wagenen says the outfield isn’t a priority. When actually analyzing the options, you see just how wrong he is, and it’s another reason why the Mets need to puruse Bryce Harper or even A.J. Pollock. At this point, the Mets should also be looking at Adam Jones, Joc Pederson, or Ben Zobrist.
Really, just anything because what’s in place is not going to cut it.
Brodie Van Wagenen is the agent for Jacob deGrom, Yoenis Cespedes, Robert Gsellman, Todd Frazier, Tim Tebow, and others. Through his representation of his clients, Forbes pegged his 2018 commissions at $25 million. Now, instead of collecting commissions from these players and pushing management to either pay or play these players, he could be the one making the decisions for the Mets.
The mere idea Van Wagenen would take the Mets General Manager job is fascinating.
First and foremost, Van Wagenen would presumably need to take a paycut to join the Mets front office. He would be doing that to go from one high stress job to the next, and he would presumably need to work the same hours. His job will now come with public scrutiny and much less job stability. Considering all that’s involved, it just begs the question why Van Wagenen is even considering this.
If he gets the job, you then have to consider how his relationship with the Mets players will impact how he runs the team.
This past season, Van Wagenen said the Mets needed to either trade or extend deGrom. Does he do that now, or does he keep deGrom on his current contract and spend the money elsewhere? If the extension talks were ever to occur, how would he handle them? Clearly, he knows what deGrom wants. Does he give it to him in full? If he doesn’t, does the deGrom situation become a problem?
Can he trade Frazier to clear room for another player? Is he willing to keep Tebow in the minors all year, or if the situation presents itself, could he actually cut Tebow?
Go back to Cespedes. The Mets organization rushed him back to DH in the Subway Series. Does Van Wagenen rush Cespedes back from his double heel injury this year, or does he break ranks with how the Mets have handled injuries the past few years? Could his opinion on these matters be swayed by those players he used to represent and those who didn’t?
On that front, do the Mets players see Van Wagenen’s treatment of his former clients as favoritism? What impact would this have on the Mets clubhouse?
Speaking of the clubhouse, what impact would Van Wagenen have on Mickey Callaway‘s authority? Assume for a second Gsellman has an issue, and that issue was not handled by Callaway or Dave Eiland to his satisfaction. Gsellman has a prior relationship with Van Wagenen. Should he ever go behind the coaching staff’s back, how would it be received? Does Van Wagenen take his manager’s side, his player’s side, or does he effectively mediate?
Looking further, what impact does Van Wagenen’s relationship CAA have? Like the Mets have done the past few years, does he go towards them for the free agents, or is he willing to branch out and speak with Scott Boras about Manny Machado? Would Boras or other agents be cautious in their dealings with the Mets? Is there preexisting bad blood which would hamper or even infringe upon negotiations?
But it’s more how he handles the Major League team. He is now responsible for an entire organization. To that end, we know he is capable of running an organization. We don’t know if he can handle running a baseball operation, especially one where the Wilpons are rumored to meddle in even the smallest of decisions.
There are people already in place, and presumably Van Wagenen has a relationship with those people. Obviously, the dynamics of that relationship are about to change. There are many reasons why, including but not limited to the fact, Van Wagenen has people outside the organization he trusts. He will seek out their opinions and may even hire them over existing staff. That is certain to have ripple effects.
Overall, there are many minefields and issues which accompany Van Wagenen. There are the conflict of interests with this players, and the conflicts his relationships could have in the clubhouse and throughout the organization. It is interesting to see how the Mets and Van Wagenen himself handles the whole situation . . . should he get the job.
Last night, Dominic Smith and Amed Rosario collided in the outfield leading to a ball dropping and the go-ahead run scoring. When a gaffe like this happens, many are sent looking to pin blame. As has often happens since he was first called up to the majors, Smith was an easy target.
Before looking to levy the blame on him, it is important to review just how Smith became a left fielder.
Back in 2011, the now defunct Sandy Alderson regime made Brandon Nimmo their first ever draft pick. Since that time, the Mets have drafted and signed just 27 outfield prospects.
The breakdown goes: 2011 (six), 2012 (none), 2013 (three), 2014 (five), 2015 (three), 2016 (three), 2017 (four), 2018 (three).
Putting aside Nimmo and Michael Conforto, the outfielders the Mets have drafted since 2011 have played a combined 35 games at the Major League level.
Currently, the Las Vegas roster only has one outfielder drafted from the aforementioned draft classes on their roster – Kaczmarski. Kaczmarski is currently battling for playing time with players like Zach Borenstein, Bryce Brentz, Matt den Dekker, and Patrick Kivlehan.
Binghamton had Tim Tebow playing everyday because there really wasn’t a Mets draftee pushing him out of the lineup.
Champ Stuart, the Mets 2013 sixth round pick, is repeating the level, and he is hitting .136/.280/.264. Patrick Biondi, the Mets 2013 ninth round pick, is also repeating the level, and he is hitting .222/.333/.247.
Overall, that’s just three part time outfield draft picks playing in the upper levels of their minor league system. Combine them with Nimmo and Conforto, and that makes just five outfield draft picks playing in Double-A or high from the past eight drafts.
Given how much the Mets drafts have not provided much in terms of outfield depth, the Mets were faced with calling up a Major League has been or never was or to give the shot to Smith. Given how Peter Alonso was nipping at Smith’s heels from Double-A, learning another position did make some sense.
Believe it or not, Smith in the outfield was not as absurd a proposition as it may sound. He entered the year leaner and faster. As noted by Baseball Savant, his sprint speed is better Jose Bautista and Jay Bruce, two players the Mets have felt eminently comfortable in the outfield. When he was drafted, Baseball America noted Smith had a strong arm and was a “fringy defender with below-average speed” in the outfield.
Still, the Mets were forced into that position because of how they handled Smith.
After he struggled last year, they were wise to bring in competition for him in Spring Training in the form of Adrian Gonzalez. Partially due to Smith’s injury in Spring Training, Gonzalez did win the job. However, he played poorly.
In 21 April games, Gonzalez hit .227/.312/.394. After going 3-for-4 with two solo homers in a game at Cincinnati, Gonzalez returned to form hitting just .267/.323/.350 over his next 20 games leading to his eventual release.
With the way Gonzalez was playing, there was a real chance to call-up Smith and give him a shot. The Mets passed, and they instead decided to stick with a guy who was not producing.
When the Mets finally released Gonzalez, they gave Smith three games to prove he could produce at the Major League level. In those three games, he went 4-for-12 with a double, homer, and an RBI. After that three game stretch, Wilmer Flores came off the disabled list, and he was given the first base job.
With Flores being bestowed the first base job, Smith’s great experiment in the outfield truly began. With Smith not playing well in the outfield, he found himself on the bench, and eventually, he would head back to Triple-A. When he was sent back to Triple-A, he was entrenched as the left fielder because Alonso had been called up and given the first base job.
In the end, you have a former first round draft pick and former Top 100 prospect playing out of position because the Mets have failed to give Smith a chance, the team has failed to develop outfield prospects at the upper levels of their minor league system, and the team is more willing to give failing veterans a chance over a younger player who could improve with Major League coaching and playing time.
Overall, that is how you get a promising prospect in the outfield, and that is how you have two young players colliding in the outfield and costing the Mets a game.
While we can question many things about Tim Tebow, the one thing we seem to not be able to question is his mission in life to help others. Time and again, we have not only seen him do charitable work, but we have also seen him take an active role in things rather than just being the proverbial person who does nothing more than cutting a check. We heard about it again just the other day:
The Mets excused Tim Tebow from camp two weekends ago so he could attend his foundation golf tournament in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. He wound up raising $2.2 million for children in need. (Photo courtesy the Tim Tebow Foundation.) pic.twitter.com/XO8XRPY6zM
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) March 12, 2018
Not even the most cynical among us can find fault with Tim Tebow the Man as he raises $2.2 million for his foundation which does things to help the mentally and physically challenged. No, there is no fault with Tebow the Man. However, what about Tebow the Baseball Player?
We all knew the deal when Tebow first announced his intentions to play baseball. By and through his celebrity status, he was going to get a chance to play professional baseball, a chance that not even some other professional athletes might have received. An organization, like the Mets, would be interested in Tebow because he would not only be a positive presence with their young and developing minor leaguers, but he would be a revenue machine.
To a certain extent, he was likely Jimmy Dugan in A League of Their Own. As Dugan would so eloquently put it, “It was made very clear to me what I’m supposed to do here. I smile, wave my little hat… I did that, so when do I get paid?”
Sandy Alderson has really made no bones about it. On the topic of signing Tebow, Alderson said, “Look, we signed him because he is a good guy, partly because of his celebrity, partly because this is an entertainment business. My attitude is ‘why not?’” (Newsday). While Alderson has recently touted Tebow as someone who could one day make the majors, it should still be noted, Tebow was never originally signed to make the majors.
To that extent, Tebow was signed to be a side-show of sorts. People would pay the Mets money to watch the former Heisman Trophy winner try to play baseball. They would cheer wildly when he hit that unexpected home run. They would call and beg for his autograph. They would be disappointed but not surprised when he made an error or struck out.
If Tebow wants more out of this experience, or experiment, it’s really up to him.
It’s incumbent upon Tebow to show he’s dedicated. He needs to show us all he’s not just a side show. He has to show us he is here to be the best baseball player he can possibly be.
While I understood this was a side show, I never doubted Tebow’s integrity in wanting to become a Major League player. That is until now.
We can argue about his having an offseason job w0rking college football. We can debate whether his charitable endeavors really stand in the way of him becoming the professional athlete he always wanted to be.
What we should be all willing to agree upon is if Tebow’s serious, he can’t be leaving Spring Training to do work for his charity. Yes, it is amazing his charity raised $2.2 million. However, shouldn’t we all ask why this didn’t happen a month or so ago? This is his foundation, and as a result, you would think he had some say as to when the event would be held. Someone who was truly interested in his baseball career WOULD NOT have HIS FOUNDATION’s charitable golf outing during Spring Training.
He just wouldn’t.
Then again, maybe Tebow was never truly interested in playing baseball. Maybe he was just interested in keeping a high profile to help boost his charitable efforts. In the end, there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, you could argue his willingness to subject himself to ridicule and to withstand the rigors of a minor league season with the end game of helping those in need makes him an even better person than we believed.
What we can’t argue is this means he wants to be a baseball player. Real minor leagues with a real hope of making the majors don’t skip out on Spring Training.
With his football career over, and with him still being a young man, Tim Tebow shocked everyone when he decided he wanted to become a professional baseball player. To a certain degree, you could say Tebow’s first season as a professional was a disaster. In 126 games played, he would hit .226/.309/.347 with 24 doubles, two triples, eight homers, and 52 RBI. Now, you can argue there were glimpses like his hitting .260/.370/.390 in June, but most would likely dismiss that as one hot streak.
Despite Tebow’s struggles, his being a Mets minor leaguer last year should be seen as a success. First and foremost, everywhere he went set attendance records. As noted by ESPN, even before he played one game, his jersey sales were through the roof. Say what you will, but this is a business, and if any team ever needed the money, it was the Mets.
But more than that, Tebow was there to leave an impression on the young Mets prospects. That’s clearly a benefit as this is a person who has been able to conduct himself as a professional, has no off the field issues, and is someone willing to serve as a mentor to younger players. This has value in the minors when you are teammates with players not too far removed from high school or college.
Fireflies teammate Bradon Brosher said of Tebow, “He does everything the right way. He’s definitely one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen. And I really respect what he’s doing.” (New York Daily News).
Another teammate, Michael Paez said, “He’s the first one to pick us up and let us know we have so much to look forward to in the game and even in life. He’s a great influence to have in there.”
Whether a direct result of Tebow or not, Paez certainly took off last season earning an All Star nod in the South Atlantic League. At the time he was promoted to St. Lucie, Paez was the league leader in doubles.
In sum, we see the positives of Tebow at play, and yet, when the Mets do something like invite Tebow to Spring Training, the Mets are routinely mocked.
You know who doesn’t get mocked for stuff like this? The Yankees, and they’re really much worse than the Mets when it comes to this stuff.
Years ago, they let a 60 year old Billy Crystal play in a Spring Training game, and now they have traded for Rangers “second base prospect” and Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson. For his part, Brian Cashman justified the PR by basically saying the team looks forward to picking the brain of a Super Bowl champion. (ESPN).
Fact is, Cashman is as right about the decision as the Mets were about Tebow. Sure, both faced their fair share of jokes over it, but with the Mets being the Mets, and Tebow being Tebow, the jokes directed towards them will last longer than what we’ll see with Wilson and the Yankees.
But you know what? There’s more virtue with Tebow and the Mets. Tebow’s there for the grind, the hard part, and not just for a fantasy camp experience. The Mets have brought in more than a yearly scheduled motivational speaker; they have a mentor.
We can all mock Tebow and the Mets all we want, but fact is, this is proving to be a mutually beneficial relationship, and it will prove to be better than any other publicity stunt any other organization can concoct.
Part of the legend of Babe Ruth was how he promised to hit a home run for a young boy in a hospital. The story became legend not just because it spoke to The Babe’s home run prowess, but also because it showed a softer side of him – how he always treated children kindly. Perhaps, it was because beneath it all, the godlike Ruth was a caring human being just like the rest of us.
On July 29th, Tim Tebow had his Babe Ruth moment:
During the game, a young boy named Seth Bosch wanted to meet his hero, Tim Tebow. Seth is no ordinary boy. The nine year old is autistic, suffers from neurofibromatosis, and he has a tumor behind his right eye.
Seth found his moment when he went from his seat to the front row and got Tebow’s attention. The St. Lucie outfielder stopped his warm-up swings from the on deck circle to go over to the netting and shake the young man’s hand.
As if the story of one of the most recognizable athletes in the United States taking the time to shake the hand of a young fan wasn’t enough, he followed it up with a Ruthian opposite field homer. Understandably, Seth’s whole family was overcome with emotion. As his mother said:
When Seth came back to his seat, he was crying. And then Tim hit the homer. I started crying, too. How does that happen? I think God brought Seth and Tim together. (Martin Fennelly, Tampa Bay Times)
These moments right here are what make the Mets signing of Tebow worth it. It’s the drawing new fans to the game. It’s his basic human decency to take time for a fan. It’s about an incredible moment you see once every other century.
Most of us grew up dreaming of replicating our own Babe Ruth moment. We all stood at the plate and called our shot in the sandlot or our parent’s backyard.
For Tebow, his Babe Ruth moment was shaking the hand of a young fan and going out there and hitting a home run. No, Tebow probably didn’t promise a homer like The Babe did, but that is of little difference to those of us who saw it happen. It certainly didn’t matter to the family who was overwhelmed with emotion by both the handshake and the homer.