There is a lot happening in the world of the Mets these days. Despite my entreaty that they take it easy, the Mets are winning, a lot. We have a lot of strong performances to thank for this—Cespedes, of course, and, I’m happy to report, the great Curtis Granderson, who renewed the wellspring of my love for him in one (well, two) fell extra-innings swoops. Syndergaard made the cover of the New Yorker on Monday, a rare Metsward nod from an institution that leans Yankees. And the team continues to experience worrisome displays of sudden blondeness, with Blevins the latest case on the scene.
This by far seems the team’s most newsworthy concern—have the Mets picked up something contagious in their travels? Were they abducted by aliens who, due to the time lag in transmissions travelling over great intergalactic distances, still think N’Sync is a thing? Is there an intruder on the loose in the clubhouse brandishing a bottle of Sun-In, lying in wait for his next victim? Can the spread be stopped!?
Unfortunately, we have no answers to these extremely pressing questions because the mainstream sports media has been inordinately preoccupied with Tim Tebow. Which brings me to perhaps the most pressing question of all—who cares?
While Tebow comes with his own cadre of super fans for whom the bizarre phenomenon of the Mets Tebow jersey was no doubt created and who continue to propel all the hype, it seems most actual baseball fans are paying only marginally more attention to Tebow than they do any instructional league player (nil), and even then mostly by accident in that it’s hard to avoid the media barrage.
I think, though, we blasé New York fans have got it right this time—rather than waste time wondering whether he’s the next big thing, or if he will drive everyone in the clubhouse insane, or if his contract will somehow take down the whole franchise, the best course of action is to ignore him and let this thing run its course; as my colleague has written here previously, Tebow is unlikely to make any impact on the team at all. Scores of minor leaguers never make it to the majors, and I’ve got no expectations that Tebow will be any different. (Though of course the USA Today report that Tebow hit his first home run in Port St. Lucie came through literally as I wrote this paragraph.) Maybe the Mets’ hitting coaches will be able to make something of those beefy biceps after all. If not, he’ll be just like any of the many other talented athletes the Mets drafted this year who’ll never see the lights of Citi Field.
Really though—it’s not like Tebow is breaking new ground; he’s hardly the first athlete to jump the line from one professional sport to another. In fact, the Mets already have one such legend! This great talent was first a football running back, and he received a scholarship to Penn State where he excelled midst a strong football program. He led the team in rushing and was named the 1986 Nittany Lions’ MVP after scoring the winning touchdown in the Fiesta Bowl. He went on to play professionally for the NFL’s Vikings and Lions. He started his crossover by playing baseball in the off-season, then eventually left the NFL for good. As a left fielder, he managed a strong career line of .270/.362/.445. At his peak in 1990 he was hitting .303/.386/.496, with 80 RBI and 36 stolen bases in 42 attempts—you can’t teach fast!
So who is this superman? You guessed it—it’s the great D.J. Dozier!
Sure, Dozier’s 1990 “peak” happened to occur while he was playing for the High-A and Double-A St. Lucie and Jackson Mets, respectively. And yes, SB Nation’s The Daily Norseman calls the Vikings’ drafting of Dozier “catastrophic.” But he still managed nine hits, two RBI and went four-for-four on stolen bases in his 25 games as a Met in his major league debut–and finale–in 1992. That’s more than, say, the super-talented Michael Jordan can boast of his baseball career.
Dozier is of an elite group to have played pro-football and baseball simultaneously—the most well-known of course being Bo Jackson and Dieon Sanders—but according to the Tampa Bay Times, Dozier is the only man to have left the NFL to follow his baseball dreams and actually make it to the majors. Whether Tebow will be able to become the second man, and Met, to pull it off remains to be seen. The Tebow/Dozier comparisons have been pouring in, but it looks like Tebow will have a higher mountain to scale, given his age (29 compared to Dozier’s 23 when returning to the game) and the subsequent time lapse since he’s last played baseball.
These days Dozier lives in Virginia, is the vice president of a software company, and father of four. Of his own career he says, “I got my cup of coffee.” Of Tebow’s baseball quest he says, “I applaud it. Standing O,” and says the haters should back off, that the road to the big leagues is hard enough without someone putting you down.
For my part, I’ll hold off on the Tebow jersey. But I will take a page out of Dozier’s book and wish him the best of luck, too. I do hope the hype will die down soon, though, so the beat writers will stop reporting on what Tebow’s wearing to practice and get back to more important Mets matters. Like the hair dye thing.
Photo Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports