It’s easy to make fun of Tim Tebow’s minor league adventure, to brush it off as a publicity stunt, to mock the whole enterprise for being peak Wilpon era Mets when they signed him in September of 2016.
Upon seeing the news of his retirement on Wednesday, I had a joke all teed up about Tebow abandoning his teammates right at the beginning of spring training and the Mets now needing to scour a list of Heisman Trophy winners to replace him — a trade with the A’s for Kyler Murray would be the best route.
But what Tebow did really is remarkable, and even though his presence in the Mets organization took time and roster room away from players with a real chance at the major leagues, that’s not his fault. He was trying to make it to the majors just like anyone else. And in 2018, he did hit. 273/.336/.399 at Double-A, with six home runs.
The fact that Triple-A proved overwhelming for Tebow, who hit .163/.240/.255 in 77 games in 2019? Well, a lot of players meet their ceiling at that level, like Tebow’s teammate with Syracuse, backup catcher Colton Plaia, who hit .152/.200/.224 in 137 plate appearances in 2019, his second year at Triple-A after having started out in the Mets organization as a 15th-round draft pick in 2013.
Michael Jordan only played Double-A, and when you can say that you did something better than His Airness, you’ve certainly accomplished something. Tebow did.
But now it is fair to argue about how Tebow’s career stacks up against another former Triple-A Syracuse outfielder.
In 1995, Chris Weinke, the Blue Jays’ second-round pick five years earlier, reached the closest level to the majors and hit .226/.314/.361 with 10 homers in 113 games. Weinke went back to Syracuse the next year, but struggled to a .186/.275/.304 line. He spent most of the 1996 season with Double-A Knoxville, hitting 15 homers, but that was the end of Weinke’s baseball career.
Weinke did the reverse Tebow, moving to football after he gave up baseball, and he won the 2000 Heisman Trophy at Florida State, beating out Drew Brees, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Michael Vick for the award.
Like Tebow, Weinke made it to the NFL, where he was on the 2001 All-Rookie Team, albeit for a one-win Panthers team that replaced him the next year with 1988 Heisman runner-up Rodney Peete. Weinke only made five starts the rest of his career, four with the Panthers and one with the 2007 49ers.
Weinke started more games in the NFL than Tebow, but Tebow did lead the Broncos on five fourth-quarter comebacks in 2011, plus a home win over the Steelers in the 2011 AFC Wild-Card game before going to New England and getting eaten alive by Bill Belichick’s defense in a 45-10 rout.
Plenty of people got their butts handed to them by the early-21st century Patriots, too. Tebow remains one of the most electrifying college football players in history, and an outstanding athlete who made it as far as Triple-A in baseball and was a playoff starter for an NFL team. Him being a big dork who couldn’t help but make the whole thing look silly doesn’t take away from that. Congratulations to him on an outstanding athletic career.
And if Tom Brady, the so-called greatest athlete ever, wants to prove that he’s really better than Tebow and Weinke, then maybe the former Expos draft pick should head back to the diamond.