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Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2017 — No. 17: Tim Tebow plays in the minors

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We’re a few short days away from 2018 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2017. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were more akin to tabloid drama. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

The Tim Tebow story made last year’s Top-25 list too. In that rundown he made number 12, based mostly on the hype surrounding his announcement that he was going to try to make it as a professional baseball player. The hype was considerable, but the only baseball we got out of it was a short stint in the Instructional League and an unsuccessful run in the Arizona Fall League.

In 2017 Tebow went to his first spring training and rode the busses in the minors all season long. They hype was nowhere nearly as big as it was in 2016, but it was still (a) way, way bigger than that which surrounds any other A-ball player, whether they’re a prospect or not; and (b) was enough to make this year’s countdown as well.

There were both highlights and lowlights for Tebow in 2017.

On the highlight side, he hit a homer in his first minor league at bat for the low-A Columbia Fireflies and homered in his first day after being promoted to high-A St. Lucie in the middle of the season. His very presence caused attendance to skyrocket wherever he played. He did not embarrass himself in any way that made the news wires, and given how famous he is, I suspect that if he did embarrass himself in any way, it would’ve made the news wires.

On the other hand he’s still not, you know, very good at baseball. He hit a paltry .220/.311/.336 with three home runs and 23 RBI in 244 plate appearances for Columbia, “earning” his promotion to St. Lucie based sheerly on his marketability as opposed to his production. At St. Lucie he hit .231/.307/.356 with five homers in 242 plate appearances. Marginally better — and all of it quite impressive for a guy who hadn’t played baseball since high school — but still nothing to write home about in any absolute sense, especially for a guy whose greatest asset is supposed to be his plus power. Between both levels he struck out 126 times and walked only 43 times. Opposing pitchers are throwing him garbage and he’s swinging at it because his baseball I.Q. and instincts do not match his physical attributes. It’s a tale as old as time.

Late in the season Tebow announced his intention to return to baseball in 2018. The Mets will no doubt welcome him. He sells merchandise and puts butts in seats, so as long as he’s willing to take his hacks he’ll be taking his hacks. The dream scenario, I imagine is that with a year under his belt he makes enough real progress as a hitter that the Mets can move him up to the team-owned Double-A in Binghamton, New York, where he could draw bigger crowds. Then, if everything breaks right, they could even give him a cup of coffee as a September callup for the Mets after the rosters open up. That’d be even more butts in seats with said butts paying much higher prices to see Tebow.

If that happens, sure, I imagine we’ll find a way to fit Tebow in next year’s top-25 countdown once again.

Battle of the Aces: Max Scherzer takes on Clayton Kershaw tonight

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I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.

Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.

This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.

Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.