Mr. Alderson’s Opus

Sandy Alderson is a shrewd fellow. He went to, and graduated from, Dartmouth College before attending, and graduating from, Harvard Law School. He invented “Moneyball,” only for his former Oakland A’s deputy Billy Beane to reap all of the glory, envy, and disdain. His tenure as New York Mets general manager has not changed the perception that he is a smarty. When everybody and their deceased relatives knew he was looking to unload Addison Reed last summer, Alderson added another reliever (AJ Ramos) via trade, improving the market for Reed and picking up a division rival’s closer under team control for 2018 in the process.

Seeing Justin Turner and Daniel Murphy in Dodger and National jerseys, respectively, is a reminder he isn’t perfect. Seeing Noah Syndergaard tossing 101 mph fastballs with seemingly no effort is a reminder, however, that Sandy didn’t lose his own fastball in his twilight years. Throw in the caveat that he’s working with a weirdly limited — and allegedly nebulous — budget for a team based in New York and that ownership sometimes rejects trades he makes, and you got yourself an appreciation stew.

So, in that context, let’s now also remember that Sandy Alderson has said he thinks that Tim Tebow will make the major leagues.

I think he will play in the Major Leagues. That’s my guess. That’s my hope. And to some extent now after a year and a half, a modest expectation.

This was about a month ago, and it is still confusing to some people. Sandy Alderson did not have to say this. It doesn’t matter that Tim Tebow was sitting next to him at the time. Tim Tebow knows that Tim Tebow slashed .226/.309/.347 in A-ball last season, his first in professional baseball. It predictably made news, for one thing. For another, Sandy has been planning this for almost 25 years now, since Tim was 4.

*At this juncture, I kindly ask you imagine your computer screen is suddenly blurry and wavy, for we are traveling back in time.*

*Okay, you can stop now.*

The year was 1994. Tamagotchis were a mere three years away from invading North America. Michael Jordan quit basketball to pretend to play basketball with cartoon characters and also to play some baseball. A few years removed from appearing in three consecutive World Series and winning one championship, the Athletics were beginning to put together a string of below .500 seasons. Attendance was in the bottom eight of baseball. Did Oakland A’s GM Sandy Alderson offer Jordan a minor-league contract? No way. According to Sandy, he offered him — through his agent — a spot on the major-league team.

I told him, ‘Don’t have him go to Birmingham, I’ll put him on the A’s right now. I can’t even tell you who the 25th man on the team is,’ Alderson said. ‘If Herb Washington can be an Oakland A, so can Michael Jordan.’

In your face, Brent Gates? Jordan chose to play for the White Sox’ Double-A Birmingham Barons instead, possibly because White Sox management was aware of all 25 guys on their roster. The 1994 Oakland A’s would up finishing in second place in the AL West with a 51-63 record. Attendance remained poor. Alderson watched Jordan play in the Arizona Fall League that November, the same league in which Tebow would controversially participate in 2016. He was asked by a reporter if he would trade for Jordan. Whether it was because White Sox GM Ron Schueler claimed he would get fired if he traded Jordan, or because he was less enamored than before after witnessing the former Chicago Bull in person playing baseball for the first time, Sandy attempted a joke. “I would if the deal was right. Tell the White Sox we’ll give them [Warriors forward] Chris Webber for Michael.”

Jordan was scheduled to play for Triple-A Nashville Sounds in 1995. He went back to the NBA instead, whatever that is. The A’s continued to flounder, finishing 67-77. Attendance sunk to the fifth lowest in the game before making its way to dead last in 1996. There was a new owner in town by then, and suddenly Oakland had a bottom-three payroll. Alderson left dodge in 1998.

By the time Alderson signed Tim Tebow to a minor-league contract with a $100,000 signing bonus, he was secure enough in his career to share his thoughts on how baseball is an entertainment business, purists be damned. Sandy shared the story of how he was essentially forced to list the Mets’ director of merchandising as the scout who signed him in the team’s media guide, since the actual baseball scout who saw his workout did not like what he saw and did not want his name anywhere near Tebow’s in any publication. He said signing free agent Todd Frazier was mostly due to his baseball playing abilities, but some of it was because he’s from New Jersey, which I hear is near New York. Sandy has also protected Tebow in some respects: I doubt it was a coincidence that Tim Tebow’s appearances on New York television in his spring-training cameos of both 2017 and 2018 were rare, and only as a designated hitter, while his outfield misadventures were either radio exclusives or only on TV in another, less-watched media market.

You have to protect an investment, after all. Tebow made $10,000 in 2017 while significantly raising both the Low-A Columbia Fireflies’ and High-A St. Lucie Mets’ attendance and merchandising sales. Mets third baseman David Wright is a universally liked and respected guy. He’s hosted a “Vegas Night” every year for the past eight years to raise money for the Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters. Those nights have admirably raised $1.3 million over those eight years. Tim Tebow got the weekend off a few weeks back so he could attend his foundation’s golf tournament and celebrity gala. It raised $2.2 million. Just that weekend. So, he’s also a pretty good representative of the team.

It doesn’t matter that he was cut from major-league camp this week after only hitting 1 for 18 — it could be blamed on an ankle sprain anyway. Tebow would be a good investment for any team not looking for a championship in the near future, which is sadly about 50% of baseball. Any. Team. Because, read Sandy’s quote again…

I think he will play in the Major Leagues.

The words “New” or “York” or “Mets” do not appear there. Alderson has fun with lawyerspeak sometimes, and this is one of those times. He never said Tebow would be a Met, just that he was pretty sure he would play for a major-league baseball team. It is probably this year; time’s running out on Tebow after all, whether it’s due to age, frustration, boredom, or the possible lure of football. Tebow is scheduled to start in Double-A this season with the Binghamton Rumble Ponies. If he produces remotely decent numbers, he can move up to Triple-A Las Vegas, where everybody’s offensive statistics get inflated like a parade balloon on Thanksgiving eve. (It’s the Mets’ final year in Vegas.)

By then it would be near the trade deadline, where Alderson hopes the Mets will be in playoff contention. Not promoting Tebow to the show would make sense. It would be the perfect time to trade Tebow to a team not in the playoff mix. Suddenly, there would be an available baseball player whom the Sandy Alderson said will to play in the major leagues one day and is posting impressive numbers in Triple-A.

It’s a shame the Tampa Bay Rays are projected to kind of compete for the second Wild Card but ultimately fail, because they were be an ideal destination for Tebow. Their attendance has decreased for six straight years now, with zero correlation to their record. They finished dead last in MLB in 2017 in numbers of butts in seats. When Tebow — who grew up in Jacksonville, Florida, and who achieved fame as an athlete for the University of Florida — visited the Tampa Yankees and Clearwater Threshers as a St. Lucie Met last year, daily butt-sitting increased 252%.

Tampa Bay also employs a designated hitter, which is why I didn’t suggest the Miami Marlins first. The Marlins, of course, are going to possibly be competing with the 1962 Mets for worst record of all time and perhaps could use some good publicity. Tebow helping the Mets shed that embarrassing record as a Marlin would be a fun storyline to watch, and wouldn’t you know it, the Marlins and Mets face off during the final weekend of the season. It’s up to Derek Jeter to make it so, like everything else in life.

I don’t have any insider information. I just have been paying attention to Sandyese the last seven years and think I finally cracked the code, just as the 70-year-old is openly thinking about the end of his career. Signing Tim Tebow, making money for his employer, and ultimately giving Tebow his wish to make it in the major leagues in front of appreciative fans, in exchange for a player or more money, would be an appropriate coda for an innovative “maverick.” Maybe they’ll make a movie out of it. We’ll get Jonah Hill that Oscar yet.

Bless his heart, Roger was reared in Brooklyn, New York. He co-founded and co-hosts the Good Fundies podcast and website. He's too busy and self-involved to hate your favorite team. @yayroger and @goodfundies on Twitter.

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OddBall Herrera
6 years ago

I don’t think it’s a mystery how this plays out – Alderson largely has control over whether or not Tebow plays in the major leagues anytime soon. There is also such a thing as September roster expansion, when it is not unheard of for teams to give random people at bats for non-strictly-baseball-related reasons. Think there’s chaff on the 25 man roster? There’s definitely some on the 40 man.

I think the hope that Tebow is a major league regular, or even bench player, is far fetched, but frankly, I would be surprised if Tebow *didn’t* make an appearance in Mets uniform in some sort of circumstance like the above, and that’d satisfy Alderson’s prediction.

Mookie Wilson
6 years ago

I 100% guarantee you Tebow will never play on the Mets. There’s no one they’d kick off the roster spot for the privilege of doing that. And worse, it would be TERRIBLE PR. It might sell a few extra shirts in Gator country, but in NYC, the usual sports radio doofus suspects are apoplectic just at the fact that Tebow is playing *spring training games*. If he were ever called up to play MLB games, these morons would riot.

6 years ago
Reply to  Mookie Wilson

That is stupid. Of course he will. Unless he quits Alderson would give him a chance for publicity. Frankly he would be stupid not to.