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Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2016 — #12: Tim Tebow plays baseball

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We’re a few short days away from 2017 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2016. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

It seems like it lasted all season, but the “Tim Tebow: Baseball Player” thing didn’t get started until early August. That’s when the former Heisman Trophy winner and failed NFL quarterback announced that he was “actively pursuing a career in professional baseball” and that he planned to hold a workout for MLB teams. Tebow is 29 and hadn’t played baseball since he was a junior in high school. As such, the entire thing was viewed as a publicity stunt. Some in baseball were particularly unimpressed by Tebow’s intentions.

Whatever his intentions were and are, Tebow followed through. At least he did after selling some autographed baseball merchandise from his website, as one does. At the end of August, however, he held a workout for scouts. His raw power was, not surprisingly, excellent. Everything else was found lacking. A little over a week later the defending NL champion New York Mets nonetheless signed him. They intended to send him to the Instructional League, but allowed him to take weekends off in order to work his day job as an ESPN college football analyst. The Mets didn’t much care, however, as they were selling a lot of Tim Tebow jerseys themselves.

A hurricane cut Tebow’s Instructional League stint short, but the Mets had bigger plans for their new star: The Arizona Fall League. This rankled many more in baseball than his signing did. The AFL is for serious prospects and Tebow, however nice a guy he may be, is not a serious prospect. On to Arizona he went, however. Apart from some typical Tim Tebow off-the-field heroics it didn’t go well. His very presence in the Fall League was viewed as a “farce,” and the scouts’ assessments of his game was withering. He was called “awful,” was told that he “stinks” and that his game was “ugly.”  The man may have big league dreams, but he had no business in the Fall League.

Not that this has deterred the Mets. They plan to let him play in spring training games next March. They pretty much have to, right? If they don’t, Tebow will have to take the $300 autographed Mets jersey he’s selling off of his website. And that would simply be embarrassing.

 

Giants remove pitching coach Dave Righetti

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After 18 years, 12 winning seasons, seven postseason runs and three World Championships, Dave Righetti is no longer a pitching coach for the Giants. He was removed from his post on Saturday, when the team announced a few reassignments as they shake up their coaching staff. Heading into the 2018 season, Righetti will serve as special assistant to general manager Bobby Evans, former bullpen coach Mark Gardner will step into a similar special assistant role to “assist in pitching evaluations,” and former assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will take a special assistant role in baseball operations.

According to MLB.com’s Chris Haft, Righetti was the longest-tenured pitching coach in the big leagues. He helped shape the careers of notable Giants’ aces like Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain — all Cy Young contenders (and, in Lincecum’s case, a two-time winner) at various points in their careers. He was there to assist Ryan Vogelsong during his stunning mid-career comeback in San Francisco. He helped newcomers like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach flourish even as the team stumbled to the bottom of the division. He was there to take the credit when a sterling rotation clinched the Giants’ 56-year, drought-snapping championship title in 2010 — and, when things went so horribly south in 2017, he took the blame as well.

Hardly anything went right for the Giants’ pitching staff in 2017. Madison Bumgarner was shelved after sustaining a serious shoulder injury in a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto couldn’t shake a cluster of blisters on his right hand and Mark Melancon found it difficult to justify a $62 million paycheck after pitching through an arm injury to four blown losses/saves and a 4.50 ERA. It would be a lot for any pitching coach to stay on top of, and given the team’s rapid descent from 2016 postseason contenders to last-place finishers in 2017, it’s not surprising that Evans felt the need to switch things up.

Successors have yet to be named for Righetti, Gardner or Decker, though Murray hears that the Giants could have interest in former major league pitching coach Jim Hickey. NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic adds that Evans is searching for someone to “put a new voice” on the pitching staff and will likely target someone who, like Righetti, brings considerable experience to the role.