It’s one thing to chase your dreams. It’s another to ignore the cold, hard truth.
Once either a feel-good story of perseverance or an object of curiosity, Tim Tebow’s baseball career is now just a sad case of an athlete who can’t move on. Three months shy of 32, with a .130 average and 32 strikeouts in just 23 games at Class AAA, Tebow isn’t good enough to make the majors. Not this season, not ever.
To be brutally honest, if his name wasn’t Tim Tebow, if his popularity didn’t bring fans to the ballpark, the New York Mets likely would have cut ties with him long ago. Baseball has little room, at any level, for an aging outfielder who struggles with pitch selection.
“It’s very difficult right now, some of the pitching that’s coming at him,” Syracuse manager Tony DeFrancesco told the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin. “He hadn’t seen much of that at Double-A last year. Guys are pounding him in and he has to learn how to make adjustments.”
But can he?
Tebow is at an age when all but the most successful major leaguers are beginning to wind down their careers – if they’re not already out of the game. They are beginning to lose speed, and their hand-eye coordination wasn’t what it was in the early 20s. To think that Tebow can be the exception, that he can sharpen his reflexes and eye enough to become a decent hitter, defies common sense, especially when there’s little in his career yet that would provide hope of otherwise.
Tim Tebow during a game in Syracuse on April 25. (Photo: Gregory Fisher, Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports)
Yes, Tebow hit .301 last June with Class AA Binghamton and .340 in July before breaking the hamate bone in his right hand. And yes, it can take a full year before a player recovers his power after such an injury.
But even accounting for those two impressive months, Tebow’s career batting average in two-plus seasons in the minors is still .233. More damning are his 261 strikeouts.
Even if his power returns, even if he can find his momentum again, it won’t change Tebow’s vision and patience at the plate. Especially when he’s facing pitchers who have either already been to the majors, or are on their way.
To be fair, Tebow came back to baseball late, after he’d exhausted his NFL dreams. He deserves credit for having the humility to gamble on something for which there was no guarantee, especially as other, more reliable opportunities presented themselves.
XFL commissioner Oliver Luck told SI.com that he talked to Tebow at the College Football Championship in January to see if he was interested, and the former quarterback said he wanted to stick with baseball.
But there has to come a time when Tebow recognizes that he’s given baseball his best and gone as far as he’s ever going to go. That time would seem to be now.
Tebow has a solid “fallback” in broadcasting with ESPN, a job at which he’s actually quite good, and is heavily involved in charity work. He’s engaged, to former Miss Universe Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, and has talked about wanting a big family.
Why put the rest of his life on hold, why spend countless hours traveling up and down the East Coast on a bus, when it’s clear his baseball career is a dead end?
Tebow can walk away without any regrets, knowing he gave his baseball dream his all. Knowing, too, that baseball gave him its fairest shake.
But the reality is, as a baseball prospect, Tebow has always been a pretty good football player.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.
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