I’ve been watching the Tim Tebow reactions since yesterday’s news that the former quarterback plans to try to make it in baseball. A lot of people are taking the view that, hey, he’s not hurting anyone, so let him try. It’s an admirable stance and one I normally strive to assume whenever weird stuff like this happens, but I can’t seem to get there. I’m not proud of myself for not being able to get there, but I’m not gonna lie and pretend I am either.
I’ve been trying to examine why I can’t. I don’t have it fully nailed down yet, but a lot of it is because Tebow’s agent’s statements on it came off as super serious and didn’t seem to allow for the possibility that, hey, it’s extraordinarily unlikely that he has a chance in hell of making it. The statement also specifically name-checked Tebow’s plan to play “Major League Baseball,” which even elite players who have excelled in the college or amateur ranks know is no guarantee. I’m also sort of irked by the private tryout he’s getting — which no one with his lack of baseball experience would ever get — and wonder if his employment with ESPN played at least some part in it. Indeed, this morning on ESPN.com they conveniently had video of Tebow taking batting practice hacks, complete with a preroll ad. They’re selling this just as much as they’re reporting on it.
Ultimately my opinion on this doesn’t matter. At least nowhere close to how much the opinion of baseball people matters, as it’s their world Tebow is trying to enter. On that score I’ve seen a split too. Some players have tweeted jokes. Some have tweeted some equivalent of that “hey, give it a try and good luck!” sentiment I mentioned above. Buck Showalter, manager of the Orioles, was a bit more pointed about it though. Here’s what he said when asked about it yesterday. From Roch Kubatko at MASN:
“I better leave that one alone,” Showalter said, smiling. “Am I intrigued? No, not at all. Amused? No, not at all.
“I think about what these guys do in our Dominican Academy and Delmarva and Aberdeen and the Gulf Coast League and Frederick and Bowie and Norfolk, I take very seriously the stuff they have to do to get the opportunities and do what they’re doing. Somebody will sell some tickets in the spring. I should be careful, we may sign him.
“I bet he was a good player in high school. I was, too.”
It’s sort of sobering for me to come down in the same place as Buck Showalter because I suspect that we don’t see the world in much the same way on many things. But that’s sort of how I feel about it. I wonder how many guys on the margins — and Tebow is about ten levels below even the margins — would like to get a media-hyped tryout like he’s going to get. A chance to turn some heads they’d never normally get a chance to turn. I wonder how many of them, though likely well aware that baseball is not, contrary to what many think, a pure meritocracy, are nonetheless miffed at just how much special treatment the famous ex-football player is getting, simply because he’s a famous ex-football player. A top draft choice gets more chances to fail than a 10th rounder and a 10th rounder gets more than an undrafted free agent, but this is pushing it, no?
So, nah. I’m not there yet. I’m over here, like Showalter, offering some three-quarter smiles, alternated with some mild-to-moderate annoyance. Not because it hurts me any and not because I wish Tim Tebow any ill. But because of the principle of the thing.
Heck, maybe half of why I’m annoyed is because this has me caring about “the principle of the thing” of a thing.