Bernstein: How Will Mets End Tebow Stunt?

By Dan Bernstein

At some point it will just be over, this cynical arrangement between the New York Mets and super-agent Brodie Van Wagenen to fluff up Tim Tebow as some kind of baseball player.

The former college football star and bizarro media sensation will turn 30 later this season, and the only question is if this stunt makes it all the way to his birthday on August 14th. He has been assigned to the low-A Columbia Fireflies of the South Atlantic League, where the average age of the pitchers he will be facing is 22, and many who are actual prospects are 10 years his junior. He will ride buses for hours, up and down the eastern seaboard from New Jersey to south Georgia and all through Appalachia, providing a ticket-selling point for numerous small cities along the way.

Why anyone would want to pay even a nominal price to be in his orbit is a topic for another time, since Tebow neither does nor says anything of substance. He remains a bauble of fame, however, apparently for reasons we can’t really remember, and is playing along with whatever this is. Tebow is a blandly likable lug who continues to profess a desire to see this out to… somewhere.

“You don’t want to set goals that you don’t understand what you’re getting into,” Tebow told NJ.com. “I’m still too young and too new at the process.”

If he really thinks he’s too young for this at 29, I wonder what people have been telling him is actually going on.

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Were he in an organization not contending at the big-league level, one could easily predict the best-case scenario of a September call-up when the rosters expand, letting him get in a couple swings for the cameras as a team plays out the string. But that would presume both a nearly impossible improvement in his measurable performance and the existence of some backroom deals above and beyond what we already know.

The far more likely outcome is that Tebow remains bad, eventually tires of the mostly miserable daily life and slinks off quietly while claiming some kind of moral victory in having tried to chase his baseball dream. And even if he were to achieve mediocrity, the last thing this Mets team would want in the middle of a pennant race is a stupid and useless sideshow in the middle of New York.

At some point this will just fizzle in a pile of strikeouts after he tours all the parks a couple times, perhaps providing a Skip Bayless spasm or two with video of a home run into some darkened trees. It will be well chronicled, I’m sure, with enough behind-the-scenes footage and interviews to be reconstituted, packaged and sold in some more easily digestible narrative form probably being conceived as we speak.

But keep the focus on Van Wagenen, the baseball bigfoot of Creative Artists Agency. This is his deal.

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson was somehow able to keep a straight face when he told reporters in September how serious he was about the Tebow experiment, insisting that “this decision was strictly driven by baseball” and “this was not something that was driven by marketing considerations or anything of the sort.”

And there is a way to look at this through which Alderson may even be telling a kind of truth. Van Wagenen also represents the Mets’ Yoenis Cespedes, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, and Newsday noted at the time that Cespedes had an opt-out at the end of the season. He exercised that right, and then re-upped with the team for four years and $110 million.

Negotiations eventually loom for the two star pitchers, too, and the Tebow favor to Van Wagenen may pay more dividends then. Newsday‘s David Lennon predicted that at the very least it “could make the relationship between Van Wagenen and the Mets’ front office a little chummier for the future, which wouldn’t hurt the negotiating process.”

Strictly driven by baseball, indeed.

Dan Bernstein is senior columnist on CBS Chicago and co-host of “Boers & Bernstein” on Chicago’s 670 The Score.

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