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.

Aaron Judge out of Yankees starting lineup for finale after No. 62

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Yankees slugger Aaron Judge wasn’t in the starting lineup for New York’s regular-season finale, a day after his 62nd home run that broke Roger Maris’ 61-year-old American League single-season record.

When Judge homered in the first inning Tuesday night, in the second game of a doubleheader against the Texas Rangers, it was his 55th consecutive game. He has played in 157 games overall for the AL East champions.

With the first-round bye in the playoffs, the Yankees won’t open postseason play until the AL Division Series starts next Tuesday.

Even though Judge had indicated that he hoped to play Wednesday, manager Aaron Boone said after Tuesday night’s game that they would have a conversation and see what made the most sense.

“Short conversation,” Boone said before Wednesday’s game, adding that he was “pretty set on probably giving him the day today.”

Asked if there was a scenario in which Judge would pinch hit, Boone responded, “I hope not.”

Judge went into the final day of the regular season batting .311, trailing American League batting average leader Minnesota’s Luis Arraez, who was hitting .315. Judge was a wide leader in the other Triple Crown categories, with his 62 homers and 131 RBIs.

Boone said that “probably the one temptation” to play Judge had been the long shot chance the slugger had to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012.