By Gene Frenette, GateHouse Media Services
While many observers gave Tim Tebow almost zero chance of reaching the big leagues when the New York Mets signed him in 2016 after a decade-long absence from playing baseball, it must now be acknowledged the former NFL quarterback is no longer a complete long-shot.
By no means is Tebow (University of Florida) ready yet for the big leagues or as deserving of a September call-up than Mets prospects like former Binghamton Rumble Ponies teammatePeter Alonso, an ex-Florida standout now with Triple-A Las Vegas. But the 2007 Heisman Trophy recipient appears to be ascending for the first time in his pro career.
Through 22 games in June, he’s hitting a robust .309, which is 52 points better than any of his previous seven full months in pro ball. Yes, 68 at-bats is a small sample size, but opposing coaches in the Double-A Eastern League are taking notice that Tebow is less overwhelmed in the batter’s box. Hitting seventh in the order, he’s not as easy an out as when he struck out 67 times in 145 at-bats during April and May.
Remember, the Mets signing Tebow was originally lampooned as a marketing ploy. Speculation will surely mount that the struggling NL East team might promote the 30-year-old outfielder to the big leagues for meaningless games in September.
However, the Mets should do Tebow a favor and let him put together a strong second half of the season before even considering a move to the Big Apple. His batting average is up to a respectable .261, but he’s still striking out once every three at-bats. It’ll give the Mets and Tebow more credibility if they make him earn the promotion by becoming a more consistent contact hitter, instead of forcing the issue because he’s a big name who would spike attendance at Citi Field.
Besides, if Tebow can keep improving and show the world that his recent surge isn’t an analomy, he might pull off a big-league miracle that nobody envisioned when the Mets agreed to give him a uniform.
One thing is certain: Tebow has gone from a baseball publicity stunt to a fairly credible Double-A ballplayer. Unlike Michael Jordan, who hit .202 in one season with the Birmingham Barons, the chances of Tebow getting to the big leagues can no longer be easily dismissed.