You can look for a more polarizing active professional athlete than Timothy Richard Tebow, but you won’t find one.
So it came as no surprise that the news of his recent promotion to the St. Lucie Mets, New York’s High-A minor league affiliate in the Florida Gulf Coast League, was met with a fair amount of ridicule.
After all, Tebow, 29, had done anything but crush opposing pitchers with Single-A Columbia. Over 64 games in the South Atlantic League, the 29-year-old hit just .220 with 17 extra-base hits (three home runs), 23 RBI and 69 strikeouts.
But numbers don’t tell the whole story. At least not the numbers you’re thinking about.
Tebow's draw, an estimated $44,200/night, not his slash line, 222/.311/.340, got him promoted to high Class A:https://t.co/vNVebGs9MT
— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) June 28, 2017
Spoiler alert: Professional baseball—even at its lowest levels—is a business first. Player development, while ultimately important, is secondary. A shocking revelation, I know.
Speaking of things we know, here’s another one: That those who own professional sports franchises love the green stuff.
Now, take a wild guess at which team leads the South Atlantic League in attendance? That’s right—Columbia—and with the exception of one other team, it’s not even close.
Here’s something you might not know: The Mets don’t actually own the Fireflies. A company called Hardball Capital LLC does, along with minor league affiliates aligned with the Minnesota Twins and San Diego Padres.
That means that the Mets didn’t see the bulk of the revenue generated by Tebow’s presence, only whatever percentage is worked out in their partnership agreement.
Can you guess which minor league affiliate the Mets do own? If you said the St. Lucie Mets, you’re the big winner. OK, maybe not. But the Wilpon Family sure is, and you couldn’t blame Fred and Jeff for doing their best Jerry Maguire impressions in the office.
Especially after Tebow went deep in his second game for the Lil’ Mets.
It didn't take Tim Tebow long to get his first home run since his promotion to high-A ball. pic.twitter.com/nuE9jNZ0vw
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 29, 2017
Bashing Tebow has been one of America’s favorite pastimes since he became the first sophomore in NCAA history to win the Heisman Trophy, accomplishing the feat while at the University of Florida in 2007.
Maybe it’s jealousy. Tebow’s list of athletic accomplishments is impressive, he’s a good-looking guy and, by all accounts, an even better teammate. He doesn’t get into trouble off the field. He’s the kind of guy parents hope their daughters will bring home one day.
But don’t think for a second that disdain for Tebow is going to stop the Mets from continuing to move him through the minor leagues. If he can build off his early success with his new team, doing so will be easier for the franchise to justify.
Yet even if he struggles as he gains more exposure to a higher level of competition, the endgame for the Mets isn’t going to change. And the endgame is getting Tebow to Citi Field before the 2017 season concludes.
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With the Mets more likely to sell off pieces at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline than they are to go on an extended hot streak and climb back into contention, attendance at Citi Field is going to start to dwindle.
Sure, promoting top prospects like shortstop Amed Rosario and first baseman Dominic Smith will draw some fans to the ballpark, but neither one commands the casual fan’s attention like Tebow does.
So get ready Mets fans. Like it or not, Tim Tebow is well on his way to a ballpark near you.