MLB teams that were seriously considering signing Tim Tebow last year knew he represented a double-edged sword.
While having him in their organization was guaranteed to generate waves of publicity of a type not seen in minor league baseball since Michael Jordan's cameo decades ago, there was also the matter of that inevitable circus detracting from their player-development mission.
The Mets, of course, were the team that decided to take that chance, and general manager Sandy Alderson explained why to Sports Illustrated as part of a lengthy piece on Tebow's transition to baseball.
“The Mets have a brand,” Alderson told SI. “I looked at Tim as someone who wouldn’t necessarily enhance the brand; he wouldn’t degrade the brand. But he would sure expand the brand.”
With that in mind, Alderson assured Tebow he could continue to pursue other opportunities — most notably his on-air duties with the SEC Network — while betting that the former Heisman Trophy winner's work ethic would leave a positive impression no matter how well he actually performed.
Eight months into the experiment, there's little question the Mets organization has benefited from the association. Tebow was called in from minor league camp for several Grapefruit League games and didn't embarrass himself, then hit a home run in his first at-bat for the Single-A Columbia Fireflies in his full-season minor league debut. His presence also has generated large crowds at Fireflies home games and perhaps even greater buzz on the road. Columbia was in Hickory, N.C., last week, welcomed by standing-room-only crowds for the four-game set.
Entering Wednesday, Tebow is hitting .231/.318/.372 with two homers and nine RBIs in 22 games. Those aren't the kind of numbers that would get most players fast-tracked to the next level in the farm system, but as a 29-year-old who has more to offer than whatever his stat line indicates, Tebow figures to be moved up the ladder at a quicker pace than his peers.
And the Mets aren't about to apologize for it. As Alderson put it to SI: “Would we have done it without the celebrity element? Probably not. … So?”