The Mets’ promotion of Tim Tebow is a disgrace

WASHINGTON — Not much has gone right for the New York Mets this year.

They’ve been beset by injuries, all but dooming their season before it ever really had a chance to begin. Thought to be the Washington Nationals’ top competition in the NL East, they’re mired in fourth place, seven games under .500 and 10.5 games out of a playoff spot. 

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But they’ve also got an enormous problem entirely of their own making. By not only continuing to employ Tim Tebow, but giving him an undeserved promotion this weekend, they have made a mockery of their own player development system and undermined the trust of every minor leaguer under contract. Moreover, their own unwillingness to admit to what they’re doing — using a celebrity to sell some tickets and jerseys — is an extra slap in the face.

I was willing to let this sideshow pass without addressing it, so long as once the MLB Draft came and players were assigned to Short-Season and Rookie teams that the Mets did the only sensible thing by releasing Tebow. He’s already signed a multiyear extension with ESPN to return to college football duties this fall, making it clear where his priorities lie. And in case you haven’t been paying attention, he’s proven himself to be a terrible professional baseball player.

Tebow’s numbers are even worse than that now. He’s batting .222 and has struck out nearly as many times (69) as he’s been on base (71). His .651 OPS ranks 71st of 93 qualifying players in the South Atlantic League, where at age 29, he is 7.5 years older than the average player.

Amazingly, Tebow’s defense is even worse. His .879 fielding percentage is horrendous, especially for someone in a corner outfield position. For comparison, Jayson Werth’s is .987 this year, .986 for his 15-year Major League career. Tebow has committed seven errors in 367 defensive innings this season — Werth has made five in over 2,240 innings since 2015, seasons played in his mid- to late-30s.

Here is Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, an experienced baseball talent evaluator, vomiting out some completely meaningless splits in defense of the organization’s decision to promote Tebow out of the South Atlantic League, after spending fewer games there than Bryce Harper did on his ascent to the majors.

Alderson went on to try to justify the decision further by citing more advanced metrics that conveniently aren’t readily available to the general public for minor leaguers.

“It’s not like he’s tearing up the league, but at the same time, all of the indications are positive in terms of various things we look at: chase rates and exit velocity,” Alderson said. “The bottom line is the average isn’t there, but he’s improving.”

That Tebow is improving is, as anyone who has been paying attention to this circus knows, wildly dishonest. Tebow’s best OPS (. 691) came in April. He’s struck out at least 20 times each month and hasn’t homered since May 21.

“I wouldn’t say he has excelled,” Alderson continued. “But at the same time, what he’s done there — given all the circumstances — justified the promotion.”

The thoroughly contradictory nature of that statement was evidently lost on Alderson.

Of course, Tebow shares in the blame for this predicament, but it’s hard to walk away from something when the enablers in charge keep promoting you closer and closer to the big leagues. The real shame here rests with the Mets and the message they are sending to every prospect in their system.

One wonders how, say, Jacob Zanon must feel. The 22-year-old outfielder just arrived in Columbia and is tearing up the league to the tune of a .368/.538/.632 slash line. How about Jose Miguel Medina, a right fielder who saw himself demoted from Columbia after a slow start (not promoted, like Tebow), who is raking at the lower levels?

As of today, every outfielder in the organization — from those left in Low-A Columbia, to those at Short-Season Brooklyn, Rookie League Kingsport, and those still unassigned to teams back in Extended Spring Training — are all being prevented from advancing because of Tebow. At every stop, a player is playing a level lower than he should be to facilitate this spectacle. I wonder how Alderson feels looking any of them in the eye and telling them this is best for their career?

More broadly, what message does it send to every kid who left college early or chose to sign a professional contract straight out of high school, forgoing college altogether, on the recommendation of the organization’s scouts? What about the ones who signed out of the Dominican Republic or Venezuela with the promise of a better life in America, a shot at the big leagues? How must they feel, watching their dream blocked by an organizational publicity stunt, one which the club won’t even call what it is?

The Mets can do whatever they want. But as long as they don’t take themselves seriously as a baseball organization, there’s no reason why anyone else should either.

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