Tebow gets base­ball pro­mo­tion, and out­rage en­sues

Belleville News-Democrat - - Sports - BY DAVID WHIT­LEY Or­lando (Fla.) Sen­tinel

Spring train­ing is three months away, but it’s al­ways Te­bow sea­son for base­ball skep­tics.

They have come out fir­ing after the New York Mets said Tim Te­bow would likely start the year in Triple-A. That’s just one step away from the ma­jor leagues, which is about 1,000 steps closer than crit­ics ever thought he’d get.

Still, they greeted this week’s news with the usual hor­ror.

“You’ve got to be kid­ding me,” Mike Francesa blared on WFAN ra­dio in New York. “The Mets should be em­bar­rassed.”

Ac­tu­ally, it’s the crit­ics who should be em­bar­rassed over their track record with Te­bow.

He spent last year with Dou­ble-A Bing­ham­ton, but New York gen­eral man­ager Brodie Van Wa­ge­nen told MLB.com that Te­bow has earned the pro­mo­tion to Triple-A Syra­cuse.

If Te­bow has a good spring train­ing, he might even make the Mets’ open­ing day ros­ter.

“If he wows us, you never know,” Van Wa­ge­nen told MLB.com.

Te­bow is un­likely to wow his way to the big leagues, but the mere fact his post-foot­ball ca­reer has pro­gressed this far makes him a truly Amaz­ing Met.

Te­bow an­nounced he wanted to play base­ball just two years

ago. He hadn’t played the sport since his ju­nior year at Nease High School in Ponte Ve­dra Beach, Fla., but he held a try­out and the Mets signed him to a mi­nor-league con­tract.

That alone was enough to make the base­ball cognoscenti apoplec­tic.

“His pres­ence here is a farce,” ESPN.com wrote when Te­bow played in the Ari­zona Fall League in 2016. “He looks like an im­pos­tor pre­tend­ing to have ta­lent he does not pos­sess.”

There’s no ques­tion that Te­bow strug­gled to hit a curve­ball. Heck, he strug­gled to hit any ball.

But what did they ex­pect from a guy who hadn’t swung a bat in a dozen years?

Te­bow grinded like a ma­niac and made him­self into a re­spectable low mi­nor-lea­guer. I fig­ured that’s where his ad­ven­ture would end, but be­fore last sea­son’s spring train­ing then-GM Sandy Alder­son said he en­vi­sioned Te­bow mak­ing the ma­jors.

Cue the laugh­ter.

ESPN.com de­creed such a thing would be a “Mets money grab, slightly more dig­ni­fied but far less charm­ing than the Ed­die Gaedel stunt.”

Gaedel was a 3-foot-7 pinch hit­ter/pub­lic­ity stunt with the St. Louis Browns in 1951. Amer­i­can League pres­i­dent Will Har­ridge was not amused and im­me­di­ately voided Gaedel’s con­tract.

The way Francesa is squawk­ing that MLB Com­mis­sioner Rob Man­fred should do the same with Te­bow.

“You’re telling me Tim Te­bow might be on your open­ing day ros­ter?” he said on his pop­u­lar ra­dio show. “You’ve got room for him on your open­ing day ros­ter? Why? Why?”

Be­cause few base­ball prospects have im­proved from ter­ri­ble-to-de­cent in as short of time as Te­bow. He hit .273 with six home runs and 36 RBIs last year in Dou­ble-A.

If not for a bro­ken hand suf­fered in July, he might have been called up when the ros­ters ex­panded last Septem­ber.

Along the way, he sold a ton of tick­ets and lured thou­sands of peo­ple to mi­nor-league parks that oth­er­wise wouldn’t have known the Bing­ham­ton Rum­ble Ponies from the Wash­ing­ton Gen­er­als.

This lat­est up­roar is spiced up by the fact Van Wa­ge­nen was Te­bow’s agent un­til tak­ing the Mets job last week. Is he just try­ing to en­rich his for­mer client?

Cue the con­spir­acy the­ory out­rage.

“Go back to be­ing an agent and leave us alone. Stop wast­ing our time,” Francesa said.

His ul­ti­mate assess­ment of Te­bow:

“He can’t play a lick,” Francesa said.

My guess is that Te­bow will be over­whelmed by Ma­jor League pitch­ing in spring train­ing, then he’ll strug­gle at Syra­cuse. By mid-sum­mer he’ll be hit­ting about .240 and the Mets will con­sider call­ing him up.

As charmed a life as he’s led, it’s still hard to see Te­bow ever be­ing a reg­u­lar ma­jor lea­guer.

But he has cer­tainly proven he can play more than a lick, even if the crit­ics will never ad­mit it.

The New York Mets an­nounced Tim Te­bow will start the 2019 sea­son in Triple-A, lead­ing to a cho­rus of out­rage from pun­dits.

In 2017, the Mets’ Tim Te­bow takes bat­ting prac­tice in spring train­ing.

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