Mets minor-league outfielder Tim Tebow recently told reporters in St. Lucie that he plans to return to the Mets organization next season, though he is not sure what to expect beyond 2018.
Through 123 career games, including a 19-game stint in the Arizona Fall League at the end of 2016, the 29-year-old Tebow hit .222 with eight home runs and 51 RBI during what was his first season playing baseball since high school.
Tebow hit an impressive .315 with a .400 OBP and .522 slugging during his first 28 games after being promoted to Single-A St. Lucie. He then struggled, batting only .120 with 32 strikeouts during his next 100 at-bats. He also struggled against left-handed pitching. And, his .664 OPS in the Florida State League was 16 points below the league average, according to ESPN.com.
"He always takes good at-bats," Michael Conforto told the Daily News in June after playing a rehab assignemnt with Tebow "He's got a good eye, he doesn't chase, and I think really that's half the battle in the game of baseball as far as being a good hitter."
"He's still got a long way to go, but I think I've seen a lot of improvement out of him," Conforto added. "From spring to the one day I got to see him, he looks like a much better player already. If he just keeps getting better, who knows?"
In terms of his financial impact, Tebow's St. Lucie Mets broke their season record for total home attendance. Similarly, Tebow's first stop this season, Low-A Columbia, saw its average attendance increase by nearly 40 percent.
"For most road stops, having Tebow come to town is also worth a doubling in attendance compared to a standard game," ESPN.com's Darren Rovell noted. "At its extreme, it's even more."
For instance, the Hickory Crawdads drew more fans during a four-game series against Tebow's Fireflies than they had during the proceeding combined eight games.
Matthew Cerrone (Twitter | Instagram | About Me): Tebow will not be playing for the Mets in September, Sandy Alderson announced last month. Nevertheless, I see fans and media speculating that it could still happen. Trust me, it won't.
For starters, Tebow isn't (and may never be) on the 40-man roster, so -- at least for now -- he isn't eligible to be added to the big-league team. Also, this past summer, when Alderson told reporters that Tebow would be moving from Low-A to Single-A, he delivered the news with an unmistakable bit of sarcasm. He evn prefaced the statement by saying he had news of a promotion, but then left a dramatic pause, which was an obvious joke for people (like me) that were eagerly waiting for him to promote SS prospect Amed Rosario.
"This is not earth-shattering news, but we're promoting Tim Tebow today to St. Lucie," he then said, leaving enough silence to notice Alderson's smile, head tilt and slight chuckle.
He did, however, compliment Tebow's power, speed, work ethic and positive influence in the clubhouse, though he continued to refrain from talking about the minor leaguer as a legit prospect.
"I don't think about his ceiling," Alderson actually once said, when asked about Tebow's potential.
Oct 13, 2016; Tebow during an AFL game at Peoria Sports Complex. Credit: Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
I talked about Tebow with people not connected to the Mets at different points this past summer, including friends who work in minor league baseball and people working for big-league teams. The people who work on the baseball side all dismiss Tebow, never missing a moment to goof on his ability. However, the people on the marketing, sales side all think he's great.
"He's an organizational guy, but a really, really famous organizational guy, and that's actually good for the game," a team's head of marketing told me in July. "You'll get no complaints from me about it, just like you won't from all of those minor-league teams and ballparks he ends up traveling through."
Basically, the consensus among people I talked with is that Tebow is nothing more than a road show. He's an OK minor league player with big goals and an even bigger heart. He also has fans all across the country, especially in places like South Carolina and Florida, where he is best known for what he did in college football. So, this year's impact on attendance should be of zero surprise.
Basically, as he did this past summer, I expect next year he'll continue to go team-to-team, ballpark-to-ballpark, helping sell tickets, books, and merchandise and essentially spreading the Tebow Effect to all levels of the organization... assuming he's playing mostly well and not embarrassing himself or the Mets or baseball along the way.