Tim Tebow went 0-for-3 in his Spring Training debut. He accounted for five total outs thanks to grounding into a double play and being doubled off first base. The former Heisman Trophy winner played designated hitter, a position the New York Mets can’t utilize in 142 regular-season games. It was a poor showing, even by the lowest of standards.
And that may be where the sole positive of the day can be found. There never should have been any illusions that Tebow had even the slimmest of hope to become a Major Leaguer on merit. After months of suggestions to the contrary, it was refreshing to see some hard truths being told postgame.
The already-low standards have been lowered. They should be when the sole highlight was happening to be in the way of a pitch thrown up and in.
“He’s so far behind on the nuances of the game,” said Mets outfielder Jay Bruce, who served as something of a sounding board for Tebow throughout the day. “It’s not like he’s been wasting his time. He’s obviously been doing other worthwhile things. But that’s the biggest thing — playing, one, and two, just understanding the game of baseball at the highest level. It’s tough. It takes a long time.”
“He’s going to have to adapt quickly,” Mets manager Terry Collins added. “What he’s attempting to do, not a lot of guys would even try.”
Bruce was being realistic about Tebow’s obvious deficiencies. His suggested two-pronged prescription to play more baseball and understand it better is the same advice one would give a Little Leaguer who has big dreams of making the bigs someday.
To his credit, Collins has been quite open about his skepticism that Tebow will be headed north with the Mets. And his quote, while praising Tebow for his ambition on its face, can be said a better way.
“What he’s attempting to do, not a lot of guys would even be given the opportunity to try.”
Ninety-nine percent of baseball people know the Tebow experiment will fail. Deep down, I believe the Mets brass knows it too, but will enjoy the publicity while it lasts. Tebow should be lauded for following his dreams. It’s not his fault that celebrity affords inequitable opportunity.
But if he wants to be a baseball player, let’s treat him as a baseball player. He was a very bad one during his debut. He tried to contextualize it as just another day at the office.
“I know a lot of other people will sensationalize it — regardless of what happens, it will be the best day of all-time or the worst day of all-time,” Tebow said of his debut. “But for me, it’s just a day. It’s just the next day. It’s just the next opportunity to get four at-bats, learn from it, go recover, get some sleep, wake up and get ready to do it again. Because there’s a lot more days like this.”
On some level, he’s correct. Baseball is a grind, a marathon. But Tebow doesn’t — and shouldn’t — get the benefit of the doubt that it was solely one bad day. There is no meaningful evidence of success to look back on and appreciate. At a certain point, he actually has to do something positive on the diamond for us to believe he can do something positive on the diamond.
Reality set in a bit deeper yesterday. Or at least it should have. The more Tebow plays under the bright lights, the more obvious this stunt will be exposed for what it is. That’s the delicate line the Mets must navigate.