Tim Tebow shocked the internet on Tuesday morning with the news that the former NFL quarterback wanted to pursue a career in professional baseball. The 2007 Heisman Trophy winner is said to be “sincere” in his pursuit of an MLB contract and his agent says it is not a publicity stunt. Sincere or not, the odds of making it in baseball are even slimmer than football and I for one, am not the least bit impressed with his latest attempt to stick as a professional athlete.
So Tim Tebow wants to play baseball and it’s not a publicity stunt? Hmmmm.
Ok, there is a whole lot of things I could write about regarding this topic, but this is a site dedicated to baseball prospects, so let’s deal with the obvious question:
Does he have any baseball talent?
Well…kinda. I mean he did.
ELEVEN years ago.
In 2005 he got some pretty good grades on scouting reports and according to a 2013 story in USA Today, the Los Angeles Angels were going to draft him out of high school, but Tebow expressed no interest in pursuing baseball at the time.
Current Red Sox scout, Stephen Hargett, who used to work for the Angels, had this to say in a WEEI.com interview:
"€”He had a strong arm and had a lot of power. If he would have been there his senior year he definitely would have had a good chance to be drafted. €œHe had leverage to his swing. He had some natural loft. He had some good power. He was a good athlete. He had had enough arm for that position. He was a left-handed hitter with strength and some size.”"
That’s a pretty good scouting report and maybe had Tebow chosen not to pursue football and enroll at the University of Florida, he might have had a shot.
But that was a long time ago, especially in baseball where it can take over a decade of consistent development for players to reach their ceiling.
Baseball isn’t a sport that you can just pick up after a long absence and excel at again. Even the best players in the world who have been scouted by major league teams since they were teenagers, have less than a twenty percent chance of making it to the Big Leagues.
And these are players who have been working diligently daily for years to hone their skills and work with the best coaches and trainers in the industry.
The skill required to hit a fastball coming at you in the high-nineties with a ton of movement is something that even Major League players struggle with at times.
And Tim Tebow is going to just show up at minor league camp after a decade away from the sport and hit some teenage kid with a plus fastball?
Dropping a few batting practice fastballs in the seats is one thing, but there is a very long list of legitimate major league prospects with a ton of raw power that can’t hit a lick.
And at the risk of pointing out the obvious – Tebow has already failed at the sport he was good at.
There is a great quote from former baseball executive Paul DePodesta, who is best known as an assistant to Oakland Athletics Billy Beane during the Moneyball-era which puts very well into context just how difficult it is to make it to the majors. I first read it in Joseph Werner’s 2016 Prospect Digest HandBook (a SERIOUSLY under-rated resource):
"“Unfortunately, the attrition rate is gruesome. Out of the entire pool of drafted and signed players, only about 18% of them ever get even one day in the big leagues, and only about 7% of them actually accumulate three years in the Major Leagues. It’s even scarier if you examine the rounds – fewer than 50% of 1st round picks get three years in the big leagues, and from rounds two through five that number drops to about 15%. After that it plummets to the low single digits. In short, it’s very difficult to scout, draft, sign, and develop Major Leaguers, so having a plan to do so isn’t enough.”"
So even if Tebow had been drafted in 2005 in the first round out of high school the numbers say he would have had a less than 20% chance of even playing one day in the bigs.
And Tebow would not have been a top pick in 2005, despite the above quoted scouting report. He is not even listed at all in Perfect Game’s Class of 2005 HS Top 878 Rankings.
He was a fringe prospect at best and now at age 29 he is all of a sudden going to generate genuine interest from a major league club?
Don’t get me wrong. MLB teams will show up to his showcase. And I won’t be surprised at all if he gets a contract from some team who sees the marketing potential of having Tebow play for one of their minor league affiliates.
#TebowTime bobble-heads anyone?
But should he actually manage to procur a contract, it will be strictly about exploiting his marketability and not about signing a legitimate major league-caliber prospect.
Look. I’m not a Tebow-hater. I don”t even like football. Besides, I live in the Tampa Bay-area where he is revered from his days as a Gator and if I did dislike him I would keep it to myself for fear of retribution.
It seems like he’s a good dude, too. He would be great around younger players – of that I have no doubt. If I was to grade his makeup, I’d give him an 80.
And I applaud anyone for having the will and desire to pursue their dreams and Tebow has the resources and the contacts to make a tryout happen.
Good for him.
Is this really his dream though?
It sure wasn’t when he didn’t return his information card to the Angels in 2005. So I’m suppose to believe that now all of a sudden he’s got this burning desire to play baseball?
This reeks of a competitive athlete who just can’t let go of the fact that he is not going to be a professional athlete anymore.
His dream was to be a NFL quarterback and that hasn’t worked out, so he’s moved on to Plan B.
Or Plan C.
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OK. Let’s say he really does genuinely want to give baseball a shot.
Someone needs to give him a reality check.
He could play in the Independent League as a side-show attraction. That is certainly feasible.
But the MLB ain’t happening.
You think his agents and the yes-men in his corner have been telling him that though?
Of course, not. They will tell him that he’s good enough to succeed, because they too, are tantalized by the dollar signs.
There is one other element to all of this, that quite frankly, really bugs the hell out of me.
What about the thousands of players who are toiling away in the minors trying for their shot?
You know the ones who were actually playing baseball while Tebow was throwing interceptions for the Jets?
It’s an affront to them. Think one of them will get an NFL tryout when they flame out because they used to be a decent high school running back?
It bothered me when Michael Jordan (my favorite athlete of all-time by the way) signed with the White Sox in the 90’s.
And it bothers me more now. Baseball isn’t a game to be taken up on a whim.
It’s a game steeped in tradition that is to be treated with respect, not as a vehicle to satisfy a vain attempt to be relevant as a professional athlete.
It’s arrogant of Tebow to think that he can just pick up a bat after a decade and compete with the best players in the world based upon some limited success in high school.
Players work extremely hard and their families make a lot of sacrifices to get to the point where they are in the the minor leagues, even if most of them won’t make it.
So, I’m not OK with Tim Tebow taking some guy’s roster spot just because he wants to play like he’s a legitimate outfield prospect for a few months.
So, Tim Tebow, you wanna play pro ball? Go ahead. Give it a shot. Good luck.
But if I’m the teenage pitcher who gets to face him in his first game in a complex league, I’m throwing him one up-and-in just so he knows:
Baseball is serious business, so you better come correct.