Why the Mets Signing Tebow Pisses on the Idea of Fairness in Baseball
One of the best reads in baseball is not a sports article but a 1975 law review article entitled “Common Law Origins of the Infield Fly Rule” by William S. Stevens. He connects the dots between common law and morality to baseball’s evolutionary attempts to be fair, evidenced with the 1890 infield fly rule preventing an infielder from having an advantage through deception. The rule was needed to preserve the integrity of the game, and because of the eroding affect on baseball over time if left unaddressed by rule. This excerpt sums it up well:
“As baseball grew, so did the influence of values that saw winning, rather than exercise, as the purpose of the game. Victory was to be pursued by any means possible within the language of the rules, regardless of whether the tactic violated the spirit of the rules. The written rules had to be made more and more specific, in order to preserve the spirit of the game.”
What does this have to do with the Mets signing of Tim Tebow?
With appreciation that the Mets still may have bottom line challenges—or even if it’s a pure marketing ploy to grow the top line—the Mets joke of a signing goes against the idea of fairness in the game. Sure, some players make 100s of millions more than others, and it’s not fair guys in AAA can’t pay bills, but the reason for free agency in the first place was for the continued attempt for equity in performance and pay. And no question it’s not fair that Armando Galarraga isn’t on the list of pitchers with a Perfect Game, but that was one of the motivations to introduce instant replay.
The Tebow signing isn’t fair to the players or the farm ecosystems, to the scouts, to the fans and most especially to the game. It’s not based on merit. Or talent. Or Tebow’s love of the game. It’s a cynical marketing ploy, pure and simple. He’s a 29-year-old (considered beyond the bell curve) taking a spot from a guy out there somewhere who worked day and night, all his life, just for a chance Tebow just showed up. That’s not just unfair, it’s criminal, baseball-wise.
And for those who equate it to Jordan beware: at least Michael went to Birmingham and tried. He rode the bus, played all season in the minors. Tried very hard too if you believe Tito Francona. Tebow isn’t even trying to frame that expectation: he’ll be splitting his time in Spring Training—relearning a game he hasn’t played since Coldplay’s first and only good CD in 2003—and a college football broadcasting gig. Can you imagine anyone on a spring training roster getting away with that? Or wanting to?
I won’t be one of the inevitable hoards of people at the Arizona Fall League or Spring Training there to see Tim Tebow. As a former NY’er I lived through the Tebow years and know first hand he’s no blessing to sports fans. He’s a distraction, a charlatan and now along with the Mets, an accomplice.