New York Mets: The beginning of the end of the Tebow Experiment at last?

PORT ST. LUCIE, FLORIDA - MARCH 03: Tim Tebow #85 of the New York Mets in action during the spring training game against the Miami Marlins at Clover Park on March 03, 2020 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
PORT ST. LUCIE, FLORIDA - MARCH 03: Tim Tebow #85 of the New York Mets in action during the spring training game against the Miami Marlins at Clover Park on March 03, 2020 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

Cut from the Mets camp on Friday, will earnest Tim Tebow show something at Syracuse at last—or finally call his baseball career nice-try, no-cigar?

When the New York Mets handed Tim Tebow a non-roster spring training invite in January, I wondered elsewhere whether the earnest Tebow would face his final curtain at last. I knew the non-roster invite meant a 2020 season back in Syracuse (AAA) at best, but I also knew there was very little indication based on the record as it was that his career had a chance of living beyond this season.

Tebow had two chances (slim and none) of making the Mets’ Opening Day roster as it was, but on Friday he was among the first Mets cuts after only three weeks in camp.

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It took him four seasons to hit a spring training home run. (He has eighteen in four minor league seasons.) He went 2-for-13 with six strikeouts before the cut came. He may slog another season at Syracuse, but beyond that, the question mark remains.

It’s been there, really, from the moment the New York Mets signed Tim Tebow in 2016. The most charitable scouting report on him had it that he had a little power at the plate. Very little, as a lifetime .338 slugging percentage in the Mets’ minor league system displays.

The signing was seen as cynical public relations involving a likable guy who hadn’t cut muster as an NFL quarterback but whose earnest and accommodating personality married to his unapologetic Christianity made Tebow a draw even in the bus leagues. Maybe the Mets really believed, too, that that personality could summon the baseball abilities he’d had as a high school junior to resurrect him as a credible professional prospect.

It’s neither Tebow’s nor the Mets’ fault that the experiment has produced nothing much more than periodic publicity after all. Most players who make it in the pros at age 28 (Tebow’s age in his first minor league season) didn’t stop playing the game in the first place, never mind take a crack at another professional sport in the interim.

When Tebow’s 2019 ended in August with a hand injury,’s Lindsay Kramer wrote that at least his roster spot hadn’t kept a genuinely quality prospect from getting playing time. But it still didn’t help his already remote chances of seeing even one regular season’s day in a major league uniform.

“[G]etting a chance is one thing, taking advantage of it another,” Kramer continued. “Tebow . . . showed perseverance in his bid to transition from NFL quarterback to pro baseball player but that dedication is still a long way from producing numbers anywhere near someone deserving of a big-league look.”

Or, continuing to generate the box office that once made the Tebow Experiment an unlikely gate attraction after the New York Mets brought him into the organization —and after he hit a two-run homer in his first professional plate appearance, for Columbia (A), that may yet remain the highlight of his professional baseball career. “Poor play plus poor attendance numbers is a brutal combination,” wrote Sportsnaut‘s Jesse Reed. “Tebow is beloved by many, yet he isn’t compelling his fans to come to watch any more.”

An eleven-year major league veteran who played with Syracuse last year, Rene Rivera, put it right on the button. “He tried. He didn’t seem to be so comfortable with the league,” Rivera said of Tim Tebow. “This is a tough league. This is a lot of veteran players, a lot of upcoming big-leaguers. We know that he didn’t do well by the numbers. But I think the good thing that he takes with him is the experience that he can come next year and be more comfortable and know what he has to do to be successful.”

He didn’t show any hint of it in the Mets camp before Friday’s cuts. The outlook doesn’t look promising for him to show more than a hint of it in Syracuse, assuming he plays there the entire season without either being demoted or, seeing the thing as it’s really been at last, retiring back to his life as a husband (he married South African beauty queen Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, former Miss Universe, on January 20th) and a college football television analyst.

If only you could make it in professional baseball on your personality alone. It’s not Tebow’s fault that his skills don’t match his likeability. It’s not his fault that his performance papers don’t match his genuine agreeability and deep religious faith. It’s certainly not the fault of those who admire him as a man (and they are legion) that he just wasn’t meant to be an athletic star long-term.

Tebow’s NFL career cratered when his weaknesses were exposed, including and especially that his football skill set was suited far better to a solid running back than the quarterback he wasn’t really built and trained properly to be. “The most glaring reason why he failed as a quarterback in the NFL was because of the coaching he received in high school and at Florida,” wrote How They Play‘s Tony Daniels a year ago.

"Tebow was never forced to develop into a conventional quarterback. Because he was big, strong, and could run, his coaches at the lower levels simply went with the flow and allowed him to run without helping him to develop other skills. As a result, he simply improved on what he naturally did well and got weaker at what he didn’t do well; passing the football . . . Why else would NFL quarterback coaches have to work so hard with him on his mechanics? What were his high school and college coaches doing when he was in their practices? Was no one working with him on his footwork, stance, throwing motion, delivery, and following through then?"

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A less stubborn young man might have surrendered the one position, taken up the other, and forged a fine football career by using the abilities he had instead of the ones that were never developed properly.

The Los Angeles Angels saw enough in Tim Tebow the high school junior to scout and consider signing him seriously. Then came college football (and a Heisman Trophy) and his three quixotic NFL seasons, followed by three signings and three cuttings in the next three seasons. Good luck picking up in baseball where you left off about a decade earlier.

A piece of you wanted Tebow to write the story of his own baseball miracle. You wanted it because he is just as he’s advertised. He’s that sincere, he’s that likable, he contravenes that profoundly the stereotype of the cynical professional athlete no matter how much cynicism attached to the New York Mets giving him a baseball chance.

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F. Scott Fitzgerald’s observation that there are no second acts in American life isn’t always true. Tim Tebow’s already had a first and a second, neither of which worked quite the way he’d hoped and prayed. If Act Three really is the act that brings the show home big, after all, you have to love Tebow’s chances. Way more than you thought you liked them when he was under center or at the plate.