I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t see this coming at all. The Mets are in the middle of a tight pennant race, surging to become a better-than-50-percent favorite to make the playoffs. That seemed impossible once the injuries started piling up and James Loney was in the mix. The focus has been on the team, the stars like Cespedes and Syndergaard and the role players and rookies who are stepping up and helping the team grasp for October. And rightly so.
Of course, the news came out this morning that the Mets have signed football-hero-now-power-hitting-non-prospect Tim Tebow to a minor-league contract, and he’ll be heading to instructs to get started. After his tryout, the book on Tebow became public knowledge: huge batting practice power, good speed … but little-to-no bat-to-ball, unimpressive outfield defense, and a questionable arm. He’s a flyer, a guy who’s unlikely to ever make the big leagues but you can dream on him improving his hit tool and becoming something of a power bat, whether that’s at Port St. Lucie or Flushing depends on how much magic his vaunted work ethic can generate. Teams like to bet on tools, especially power, and Tebow has that in spades.
Perhaps I should have imagined this Tebow-Mets union? As Kate Morrison rightly predicted on Twitter, the Mets were likely to make this move because the Mets own a low-A affiliate that will benefit financially from a Tebow infusion. The Wilpons will directly benefit from any increased attendance that their new, huge, left fielder will bring. (Of course, this is why I expected he’d end up with the Atlanta Braves, a team that controls all its affiliates and is based in the south; Tebow is based in Jacksonville.) And we all know that the team is more than happy to create PR issues if there is some way to benefit from it.
The Mets’ history of making big splashes that seem ill-advised or simply short-sighted–the inevitable cloud of disappointment that hangs over the little brother of New York sports–is what makes the fact that the Mets signed Tebow (and not the Braves or Rockies or any other team) something of an internet punchline. It’s funny that the Mets signed Tebow because they’re the Mets … not necessarily because he’s Tim Tebow.
I was watching a rerun of Friends the other night (I see you, Wilmer Flores!) and there was a scene where Joey Tribbiani is talking to a potential love interest who’s new in town. The conversation went something like this: she says “I’d love to see the Met.” Joey says something like: “No, no. You want to see the Yankees. The Mets suck!” And everyone laughs are poor, one-track-minded Joey. But everyone laughs at the Mets too, because the Mets are just as sad and simple.
This joke has been made, ad nauseum, forever. The Mets used to be the worst team in baseball history, forever the second fiddle to the Yankees, forever making the kinds of moves that cause fans to throw up their hands and outsiders to chuckle. Marv Throneberry’s existence. Jimmy Piersall running the bases backwards. Trading Tom Seaver. Bobby Bonilla’s deferred contract. Todd Hundley in left field. Daniel Murphy in left field. Lucas Duda in left field. Tony Bernazard. Bernie Madoff.
It’s that it’s the Mets.
Tebow was kind of a fiasco in New York the last time he played for a major franchise in the city. Maybe the Mets seem oblivious to that fact? LOL. But in reality, this is a low-risk move. Signing any 29-year-old to a minor-league deal is unlikely to make a major difference in a team’s win-loss record. (Trust me, I specialize in these kinds of transactions over at the BP main site. He’s less likely to affect a team than Erik Kratz or Dan Johnson.) This signing is about public relations, about money, and about the same one-in-a-thousand chance that a non-prospect will work out that every team makes 20 times a season.
It seems wildly unlikely that Tebow’s personality is going to rub players or management the wrong way. We’ve got mountains of anecdotes and piles of data that shows that people like being around him, and I’d be very surprised if his clubhouse presence ruins anything that wasn’t already broken to begin with. There’s no room for taking a moral stand against his signing the same way there might be with adding someone with a domestic violence record like Jose Reyes; Tebow’s negatives almost certainly come down to baseball skills … and maybe a little increased media scrutiny. That’s it. Quite honestly, I’d rather have the guy in the organization than Reyes, who’s contributing a great deal to the big league ballclub … and that’s coming from someone who attended Florida State University when Tebow was in Gainesville.
Let’s be honest, there’s virtually no way that this signing affects the Mets’ major-league roster in any way except one: this deal may make the Wilpons a little bit of money, which they can theoretically funnel back into the big-league product. That’s it. As way too many people have pointed out, there’s nothing wrong with signing a guy with one tool to a low-risk minor-league deal. Teams do that all the time with international guys, with former big-leaguers and prospects, with guys who pop up and do one thing well in indy ball. Teams invite Russell Wilson and Johnny Manziel and Garth Brooks to Spring Training because they can, and because it’s fun, and because why not. So I guess I’m for this signing, in the end. Let’s lean into the punchline a little, and recognize Tebow’s signing for what it is: another act in the three-ring circus, designed to delight a few but that makes no major impact on the serious matters outside the big tent.
Rest assured, this deal will be fun for some people: fans who already like Tim Tebow, families taking their kids to Cyclones games, the entire ESPN and Fox Sports networks, SEO optimizers … and maybe even for a few Mets fans and beat writers. Sure, it keeps the Mets in the spotlight as a franchise that’s good for a little bit of a laugh at times. LOLMets and all that. But it’s not like the team didn’t still earn that punchline anyway.
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