You knew this was coming. After taking plenty of heat for his ill-advised comments to Sports Illustrated comparing the scrutiny Bryce Harper faces to that of Jackie Robinson, the Nationals released a statement this evening from director of player development Doug Harris.
Here’s the statement in full, via Ben Goessling of MASNSports.com:
“I’d like to clarify my remarks as they appear in Tom Verducci’s recent Sports Illustrated feature story on Bryce Harper. In talking to Tom, my sole intent was to speak to the scrutiny that Harper faces on a daily basis.
“That said, the hardships that Mr. Robinson endured in/around 1947 were unique and historical in context. While Harper’s current situation is extraordinary by most measures, it pales in comparison to the life of Mr. Robinson, nor will it approach the lasting impact. I regret making this ill-fated correlation.”
Nobody will question that with the internet, Twitter, blogs, smartphones and MiLB.tv, among other sources, we’re going to know more about Harper when (or if) he reaches the majors than probably any prospect before him. Hopefully Harris has learned that he could have supported his larger point (and had a lot less of a headache) without resorting to silly and pointless hyperbole.
Tim Tebow isn’t letting go of his major league dreams just yet. The former NFL quarterback is slated to appear with the Mets during spring training this year, extending what initially looked like an ill-fated career choice for at least one more season. Per the club’s official announcement on Friday, he’ll join a group of spring training invitees that includes top-30 prospects like Peter Alonso, P.J. Conlon, Patrick Mazeika and David Thompson.
Tebow, 30, hasn’t taken to professional baseball as gracefully as expected. He batted a cumulative .226/.309/.347 with eight home runs and a .656 OPS in 486 plate appearances for Single-A Columbia and High-A St. Lucie in 2017. While that wasn’t enough to compel the Mets to give the aging outfielder a big league tryout, there’s no denying that Tebow brought substantial benefit to their minor league affiliates — in the form of increased attendance figures and ticket sales, that is.
Even after the Mets were booted from the NL East race last September, they resisted the idea of promoting Tebow for a late-season attendance boost of their own. That’s not to say they’re planning on taking the same approach in 2018; Tebow will undoubtedly get his cup of coffee in the majors at some point, but for now, a Grapefruit League tryout is likely as close as he’ll ever get to playing with the team’s big league roster on an everyday basis.