Tim Tebow gets baseball promotion, and outrage ensues

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 make 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, 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, 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.

Read the MLB.com story here.

David Whitley is a member of our Community Conversations Team. He can be reached at dwhitley@orlandosentinel.com

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