Tim Tebow is good at baseball. No, seriously. It’s been almost two years since the former Heisman-winning quarterback informed the world that he was leaving a cushy television gig to return to professional sports, this time by attempting to make the New York Mets. At first, most of us laughed at him. After all, the thought of a twenty-nine year old playing in rookie ball is unheard of. When you add that Tebow hadn’t played organized baseball in eleven years, it was hard to imagine that this was anything more than a marketing scheme by the Mets. And to be fair, it would be a pretty good one, as Tebow’s jersey is already outselling most MLB players and he hasn’t made it past AA ball yet.
All it took was one pitch to think there was maybe something more than just jersey sales, though. In September 2016, Tebow stepped to the plate for his first at-bat in the Florida Instructional League in Port St. Lucie, FL. Six seconds later, he was rounding the bases with his first professional home-run. Seeing him celebrate in that blue and orange #15 again jersey was fun.
Something kind of strange about Tebow’s baseball career so far — he loves the first at bat of the season. He homered on his first pitch in A ball last year, too.
Then he did it again in his first at-bat of AA this year.
It hasn’t all been fun-and-homers for Tebow to this point, though. Across A and A+ ball in 2017, he slashed .226/.307/.347 with a 96 wRC+, which is about 4% under league average. That doesn’t exactly give a huge amount of confidence for a twenty-nine year old playing against kids that aren’t legally allowed to drink (although to be fair, they probably all drink more than Tebow does).
There have also been at-bats like this one in Spring Training against future Hall of Famer Max Scherzer, where Tebow proved to be, uh, quite a ways away in talent from major league pitching.
But, the Mets saw enough to give Tebow a promotion to AA this year, and the numbers have treated him much better. To this point in the season, Tebow is hitting .270/.337/.390, good for a 105 wRC+ (5% above league average). In fact, he’s been good enough that he was selected to play in last night’s AA Eastern League All-Star Game. Tebow put up a respectable performance against the best pitchers at his level, going 1-4 with a double.
Does Tim Tebow, a thirty-year old, really have a chance to make the show? Who knows, really. He definitely isn’t a top prospect, given his age. But if you’re the Mets, why not? The Mets stink this year — they’re 37-53 and 13.5 games back in the division standings. There isn’t really going to be any meaningful baseball played in the next few months, anyway. Why not toss Tebow out there in September and see what happens? Hell, you’ll at least fill out the stadium.
For what it’s worth, the Mets have continued to claim that the Tebow project is not a publicity stunt. Early in 2018, before Tebow had started playing as well as he has, GM Sandy Alderson said that he thinks Tebow is going to get there eventually, giving him the ringing endorsement of a “modest expectation”.
If nothing else, the Mets should bump Tebow up to AAA to finish out the year, right? Find out if his performance thus far in 2018 is legitimate or a fluke. If he performs well enough, and has a decent Spring Training in 2019, is it really that far-fetched that we could see Tim Tebow playing real life baseball games at Citi Field sooner rather than later? (note: the fact that it’s called Citi Field now instead of Shea Stadium is a crime).
Count me in. Pull the trigger, New York!