Sports

What’s Your Problem With Tim Tebow?

by Jon Baum

September 9, 2016

Tim Tebow got signed by the Mets and will report to the low minor leagues. Good for him. The end.

If only it ever were that easy with Tebow.

Tebow has been a polarizing, fascinating figure since his days winning a Heisman Trophy and two national championships as quarterback at the University of Florida. Gator fans clearly loved him, and his athletic ability couldn't be questioned. But for myriad reasons—his unorthodox throwing style, his clean-cut image, his devotion to religion and the biblical verses on his eye black strips, his proclaimed virginity, his “Tebowing” ritual and touchdown celebration, his appearance in a conservative group’s Super Bowl ad and continued association with conservative causes, his perceived smugness—he became a player many loved to hate.

But the media followed his every move. And sports fans kept showing interest. So the media continued to follow his every move. Rinse and repeat.

After a brief NFL career filled with a few big moments but lacking sustained success, Tebow—who has been serving as a college football analyst for ESPNannounced last month that he wanted to play professional baseball.

The response to this announcement generally ranged from laughter to derision to outrage. Sure, he might have been a great high school baseball player, but now he’s 29. Too old, too far removed from organized ball. The idea that he would even participate in an open tryout in front of major league scouts actually offended many in the game.

But the tryout took place. The Rotten Tomatoes rating probably would have been around 46 percent. Wasn’t great (his throwing was mostly awful), had a few terrific moments (he hit some monster home runs in batting practice), could have been worse (he showed pretty good speed on the base paths), but still not all that impressive (he struggled against live pitching).

Image via Ed Clemente Photography (cc)

Had this been a 19-year-old with no baggage or name recognition, the massive power and solid speed easily would have been enough to earn significant interest from a couple dozen big-league clubs. But this is the living distraction that is Tim Tebow—and he is nearing 30, which is ancient for a baseball prospect—so the interest was limited. But it was there. And from multiple teams.

And now the Mets have signed him. Tebow’s in New York again (he had a rocky tenure with the Jets during his NFL days). In short, it’s a recipe for chaos.

Except Tebow won’t make it anywhere near New York this year. And this just goes to show that the Mets really might believe Tebow has some talent they can use. The Mets right now are playing their best baseball since April. A season full of injuries and underachievement had last year’s World Series runner-up looking like a non-contender this time around. But stars have returned to form and/or gotten healthy, and young players and a reacquired veteran have shored up the roster with somewhat unexpected contributions, making the Mets one of the hottest teams in the league and placing them in the thick of the playoff race.

The last thing the team needs right now is the Tebow Circus in town. Heck, even as Tebow reports later this month to the Mets’ instructional league facility exactly 1,000 miles southwest of their Citi Field home in Queens, his presence will be felt. Mets manager Terry Collins and his players now have to answer questions about Tebow as they try to focus on their playoff run. Despite knowing the commotion it would cause, the Mets signed him anyway.

“While I and the organization I think are mindful of the novel nature of this situation, this decision was strictly driven by baseball,” Mets general manager Sandy Alderson says. “This was not something that was driven by marketing considerations or anything of the sort. We are extremely intrigued with the potential that Tim has.”

So maybe it’s for marketing purposes down the road, and maybe it’s not. Maybe Tebow’s baseball career will be even less memorable than his NFL tenure. And perhaps Tebow’s motivations have more to do with his interest in marketing himself than in being a professional athlete.

Then again, based on just about everything Tebow has said and done during his collegiate and professional careers, his strong belief in himself as a professional athlete is evident.

Tebow may be a lot of things, but a coward isn’t one of them.

“I would consider success giving everything I have,” Tebow says.

So Tim Tebow decided he wanted to play baseball. He tried out. He got signed. Good for him.

The end.

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