When I read that the New York Mets signed Tim Tebow to a minor-league deal, I chuckled a bit. My first thought was, “this is really happening, I guess.” Aside from the mild laughter that ensued, the realization of the message that was being sent to minor league baseball players around the country began to sink in: The skills that they’ve worked their entire lives to master mean nothing so long as a famous, athletic person can look the part and sell more tickets.
Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Alex Wood summed up what I can imagine is a common feeling around affiliated baseball with one tweet.
Food for thought. pic.twitter.com/escth3F5jk
— Alex Wood (@Awood45) September 8, 2016
“Tebow signing a minor league deal for 100k is like your boss giving his son/daughter who has a high school education & hasn’t worked in 10 years the promotion that you were supposed to get. #America,” Wood said in the tweet.
Tim Tebow Has No Place in Baseball
I had to rub my eyes several times after reading it, but the former Florida Gator’s contract does include a $100,000 signing bonus. Now that number seems microscopic when Kelly Johnson is making $1.5 million in 2016, but the signing bonus is irrelevant from the Mets’ perspective. That amount of money is a drop in the can for any big league franchise, even Brad Pitt’s Oakland Athletics.
It’s about what the money says (I’m done with the Moneyball references, I promise). The amount of players in the Mets organization that have give years of blood, sweat and tears to the game of baseball that are making about $1,000 a month while a celebrity just decides he wants to play baseball and gets a $100,000 for signing a contract. Let’s be honest, that’s what Tebow is at this point – a celebrity. He didn’t earn that signing bonus for his talents like other players, even “bonus babies”; it was a gift from the Mets because he’s famous.
But hey, if the Mets and GM Sandy Alderson want to blow a few advertising dollars to double the media presence in spring training and sell a few more jerseys, so be it. They are well within their rights to do so. Just don’t give a response like this:
“This was not something that was driven by marketing considerations or anything of the sort,” Alderson told the Associated Press. “We are extremely intrigued with the potential that Tim has. He has demonstrated over his athletic career that he is a tremendous athlete, has great character, a competitive spirit. And aside from the age, this is a classic player development opportunity for us.”
Baltimore Orioles skipper Buck Showalter was among a few that showed some displeasure at the early stages of this sideshow. Several players made jokes about Tebow’s apparent transition to baseball (Adam Jones was on fire with his), but Showalter’s response shows why this move devalues what players go through to sign professional contracts and keep jobs throughout a career.
“Am I intrigued? No, not at all. Amused? No, not at all. I think about what these guys do in our Dominican Academy and Delmarva and Aberdeen and the Gulf Coast League and Frederick and Bowie and Norfolk, I take very seriously the stuff they have to do to get the opportunities and do what they’re doing,” Showalter told NBC Sports in August.
That quote swiftly leads me to my final point. I’ll admit that even I thought throughout this whole process that if he came across sincerely and really wanted to give this a shot, what the heck? Why not? That was until I read that he will be able to take days off during instructional league play this fall to remain at ESPN as a college football analyst. That piece of information blatantly answered every question I had about this whole process.
He may be an elite athlete. He may be a Heisman Trophy recipient and national champion. But if he cannot be sincere enough to devote 100 percent of his time to baseball, he has no place in the game… and shame on the Mets for giving him one.