Mets outfielder and former NFL QB Tim Tebow showed for the first day of fall instructs at Port St. Lucie, Fla. He was assigned a very familiar uniform number and then got busy taking some reps in front of a heavy media presence.
Obviously, this story is going to be part of the baseball media-scape for a while, and that’s fine, since a lot of people care about Tebow and his endeavors. In light of that, though, and in light of his first day in a Mets uniform, let’s look at three key takeaways regarding Tebow’s fledgling baseball career …
1. He’s very old for his peer group.
You know this, of course, but consider the context of the instructional league …
Just got mets instructional league roster. Average age 21. Tebow: 29.1
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) September 19, 2016
Yep, an average difference of eight years and then some. Not so long ago, ballplayers tended to park between age 27 and 29, generally speaking. Recently, though, Jeff Zimmerman turned up evidence that ballplayers now hit the majors at peak level and begin declining from that point — again, speaking in general terms.
To be sure, Tebow isn’t in peak baseball mode right now, in part because his baseball skills have lain dormant for so long. It’s similar to how you’ll realize big immediate gains from weight training if you’re a first-time lifter or haven’t lifted in some time. However, any reasonable horizon for reaching the majors puts Tebow well into his 30s — i.e., an age at which even many established major-leaguers are fighting to stay in the game. Tebow has some ability, to be sure. He’s obviously athletic and he very likely could’ve been drafted coming out of high school in Florida (the Florida prep circuit is a highly competitive one, to boot). There’s no getting around that biological age and the time he still needs to re-learn the game and learn the game as it is at the highest level. The simple reality is that this almost certainly doesn’t end with any kind of meaningful major-league career for Tebow.
2. He’s not taking anyone’s spot.
A lot of the pushback against Tebow’s deciding to pursue baseball is that his name would ferry him up the organizational ladder to the detriment of more deserving prospects. That still yet may be the case, and the prospect of moving merchandise is probably somewhere within the Mets’ complement of motivations for signing Tebow. However, that’s simply not the case at this level …
Contrary to what the public seems to be fixated on, no Mets prospects were ignored in favor of Tebow today.
— Alyson Footer (@alysonfooter) September 19, 2016
There are more than 50 players at Mets fall instructs. If a player was deemed worthy of being there and able to benefit from it, he’s there. Tebow isn’t depriving anyone of anything he deserves at this point. Maybe that changes when the Mets get to the point of rostering Tebow in the high minors, but we’re not there yet. Kindly table your outrage on this front.
3. The swing still looks solid.
It’s of course the left-handed power potential that’s earned Tebow a contract (likely in addition to, as noted, other factors), and it still looked workable on Monday …
That stance remains quite wide, but he’s reasonably quick to the ball, he gets the knob moving, and has some hip and shoulder separation. It seems unlikely he’ll ever handle high-level offspeed stuff, but he’s got the strength and bat speed to run into a fastball on occasion. That’s what will carry him.
4. Yes, major-league novelty acts are possible.
I always hate to end on a cynical note, but, yes, it’s possible that Tebow forces his way to the majors without earning it solely because of his on-field performance. You know about Eddie Gaedel, the diminutive, Bill Veeck-approved pinch-hitter. You know about Pete Gray, the one-armed player who made his way to the majors thanks to rosters thinned out by World War II conscription. Those were baseball’s “wildcatter” days, yes, but we have a recent example of the novelty major-league player. Does anyone really think a former high school coach with a 5.62 ERA at the Triple-A level deserved to make the majors at age 35? I speak, of course, of Jim Morris, who pitched 15 innings for the Devil Rays from 1999-2000. They made a movie about it, you know …
Yes, it’s a great story, as would Tebow making it to the bigs. However, if Tebow fails to perform in the minors and winds up cracking the expanded roster some September for a team — the Mets or someone else — not especially relevant at the time, it’s safe to assume it wasn’t just baseball driving the decision. Something like 99.9 percent of the time, baseball in the big leagues is a remorseless meritocracy, but it isn’t always. This isn’t to say that if Tebow makes the majors, then it’s necessarily for reasons other than his baseball skills, but “Tebow as major-league novelty act” is within the range of possibilities. We’ve seen it before.
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / The things we took away from Tim Tebow’s first day in a Mets uniform