Tim Tebow on the Mets’ Opening Day roster? That’s a “clown” move, bro.
At least that’s what Mike Francesa thinks. New York’s “Sports Pope” recently launched into an extended tirade at reports that just such a scenario could occur next spring. “Start him in left, and start Mr. Met in center, and just be a carnival act,” Francesa said on his WFAN show of Tebow, the former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback who has been working his way up the Mets’ farm system since they signed him in 2016.
Francesa was reacting to comments this week by Brodie Van Wagenen, the former head of the baseball division at Creative Artists Agency who was hired last week to be the Mets’ new general manager. Van Wagenen said (via MLB.com) that he expects Tebow to start next season at Class AAA Syracuse, but added that “if he wows us” in spring training, the ex-NFL player could leap straight to the big leagues.
Calling that suggestion “an absolute joke,” Francesa said, “Tim Tebow is 30 years old. You’re trying to build a winning culture, and you’re going to tell me that you’re going to put Tim Tebow on your major league roster? Are you kidding me? You want to be a clown or a laughingstock before you even start here?”
“I mean, clown statements like that, we’re not going to take you seriously,” the veteran sports-radio host continued. “You’re telling me Tim Tebow might be on your Opening Day roster? You’ve got room for him on your Opening Day roster? Why? To try to get, what, a couple of extra people in the building for the second game of the season?”
Francesa made it clear that he was not impressed with Tebow’s minor-league statistics, including a .220 batting average with 69 strikeouts and three home runs in 214 at-bats in 2017 with the Class A Columbia Fireflies and a .273 average with 103 strikeouts and six home runs in 271 at-bats this year with the Binghamton Rumble Ponies. Tebow’s 2018 campaign was cut short in July when he broke a bone in his right hand, or he might have been among the Mets’ September call-ups.
Van Wagenen said Wednesday that Tebow’s “momentum was stopped” because of the injury, adding (via ESPN), “The goal is if he can pick that up in spring training and hopefully get off to a good start in Syracuse, then we’ll evaluate it when he’s ready.”
“Timmy is not a guy you want to put restraints on,” the general manager said. “If he sees a block, he’s going to work that much harder to go overcome whatever somebody places on him. I believe in him.”
Fortunately, no one pointed out to Francesa during his rant that Tebow is actually 31, or his head may have exploded. As it was, he turned apoplectic when a WFAN caller noted that Van Wagenen, who represented Mets stars such as Jacob deGrom and Yoenis Cespedes while at CAA, also used to be the agent for … Tim Tebow.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” Francesa exclaimed. “The Mets should be embarrassed. He should apologize to every Met fan for this. You know what? It’s even worse.”
“He can’t play a lick,” Francesa said of Tebow. He referred to former Mets general manager Sandy Alderson in adding, “Even Sandy admitted it was a marketing stunt!”
Alderson, who stepped down from his position in July after a recurrence of cancer, said of Tebow last year, “Look, we signed him because he is a good guy, partly because of his celebrity, partly because this is an entertainment business. My attitude is, ‘Why not?’”
An argument can be made about whether Tebow’s statistics warrant his advancement through the Mets’ system, but his age has played a major role in giving the organization reason to want to push along his progress. There certainly can be no denying his immense popularity. Crowds have thronged to his games and a similar dynamic would almost certainly unfold, at least initially, if he made it to New York’s Citi Field.
In that case, there would be plenty of opportunities to note the media “circus” that would unfold, in turn giving Francesa more chances to throw more “clown” jabs at the Mets. He might be a bit off-base, though, about a Tebow promotion to the big leagues constituting the opposite of building “a winning culture.”
The former Broncos and Jets quarterback, for all his failures at the NFL level, was always a passionate player and a hard worker who has been diligent about improving his baseball skills. By all accounts, he has been well-liked by his teammates and humble about his minor league journey and those attributes could play well even at the major league level, especially if he can mix in the occasional home run.
In any event, to judge from Van Wagenen’s comments, Tebow is far more likely to start next season at AAA, at which point he will need to continue to show improvement to earn a call-up. To judge from Francesa’s comments, though, it will be a major “wow” if Tebow earns anything but his continued scorn.
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