The great Tim Tebow experiment is harmless, even if it drives you crazy

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Thursday March 9th, 2017

This story originally appeared on FoxSports.com.

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.—Tim Tebow is the most polarizing figure in sports, and I’m a click-baiting fool trying to suck up to every reader.

Therefore, here are two columns in one, one for Tebow lovers, the other for Tebow haters. Whichever side you’re on, skip the parts that will spike your blood pressure, and move on to your preferred argument.

First the facts: Tebow, in Mets camp on a minor-league contract, appeared Wednesday in his first major-league exhibition, wearing No. 97, batting eighth against the Red Sox as the DH. He went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts looking and also was hit by a pitch and grounded into a bases-loaded double play.

Now the hot takes, coming at you from both sides:

Tebow hater: What a joke. Tebow shouldn’t be anywhere near a major-league park. He’s likely to start the season in the Class A South Atlantic League. How about looking at a minor leaguer who actually deserves a chance to be seen by manager Terry Collins and his staff?

Tebow lover: Uh, the game on Wednesday was split-squad; another team of Mets was playing the Astros in West Palm Beach. The Mets also have seven position players participating in the World Baseball Classic, creating further openings. Don’t worry, the Mets’ prospects will get their precious at-bats.

Oh, and by the way, Tebow is 29. It’s not as if he can be on a five-year plan. As Collins put it, “He needs to move fast. And you can force-feed this guy. He’s not intimidated by situations.”

Tebow hater: He might not be intimidated, but he sure can look lost. It was embarrassing what Tebow did before his first at-bat against righthander Rick Porcello, strolling toward the Red Sox’ on-deck circle, clueless about where to go.

Porcello caught a glimpse of him and thought Tebow was a Mets ball boy. Collins said jokingly that he thought Tebow was going to shake hands with Red Sox bench coach Gary DiSarcina. Mets first base coach Tom Goodwin and plate umpire Ryan Additon had to order Tebow back.

And Tebow?

“I kind of thought, ‘You walk around because you’re a lefthander.’ I found out that you don’t do that.”

Tebow lover: Oh no, we can’t have anyone violate the sacred rhythms of baseball in that most serious of competitions, the spring-training exhibition. Everyone got a good chuckle out of it, Tebow included. Are we really going to make this a thing?

Tebow hater: Did you see Tebow stare back at the plate umpire after several called strikes? Did you hear him say afterward, “I felt like I put some good swings (on balls) when I swung. I didn’t necessarily think some of those were strikes?” Who does he think he is, questioning the plate umpire when he is the baseball equivalent of a baby in diapers?

Tebow lover: Looked and sounded like a veteran major leaguer to me. And if Tebow can help inspire the movement toward RoboUmps, he will have saved the sport!

Tebow hater: Schooled by Porcello on a four-pitch strikeout. Schooled by Brandon Workman on a three-pitch strikeout. And the one time this Faux Bo (Jackson) put the ball in play? Bases-loaded double play against the immortal Noe Ramirez. Standing ovation—hip, hip hooray. But not even a measly RBI.

Tebow lover: What did you possibly expect? We’re talking about a guy playing baseball for the first time in 12 years and facing the reigning AL Cy Young winner and other major-league types. Tebow is not without tools—he showed his raw power in batting practice, crushing homers to the opposite and pull fields. And he knows this is a process.

“Any time you play in a big-league game, you find out that the speed of the game is fast. There is a lot of action that happens in a hurry. And you’ve got to adjust it,” Collins said. “Anytime Tim can be exposed to this, it’s going to help him. This guy is a winner. He has been a winner his whole life. He has made adjustments his whole life.”

Mets hitting coach Kevin Long added: “He’s obviously got to work, do whatever it works to get his skill set and his level of play better, just like any other minor-league guy. That’s how we’re treating him. There’s no special treatment whatsoever.”

Tebow hater: Please. Just. Stop. A publicity stunt, that’s all this is. Buy your Tebow No. 15 jerseys—oh wait, he didn’t wear No. 15 on Wednesday because that number belongs to infielder Matt Reynolds, a Met who actually has played in the majors. Wake me up when we see Tebow in his next adventure, replacing David Ross on “Dancing with the Stars.”

Tebow lover: If this is a publicity stunt, why is Tebow willing to spend the season riding buses in the minors? Why is he willing to endure the blisters that require him to wear tape on his hands from all of his swinging? Why is he willing to look as overmatched as he did Wednesday?

Tebow hater: His presence is an insult to the Mets’ actual players, a distraction from the team’s preparation for the season. He will turn the clubhouse into a circus, and his teammates eventually will grow tired of his act.

Tebow lover: What act? There is no act! Tebow quietly ate lunch with Curtis Granderson before the game, then happily accepted ribbing from Goodwin and Pittsburgh native Neil Walker during the team stretch about leading the Broncos’ 29–23 victory over the Steelers in the 2011 AFC wild game.

Long said the Mets players were excited to be joined by Tebow, calling him a hard worker and class act who will make those around him better. Collins praised Tebow’s ability to blend in, saying, “This guy has a clue … He knows what the atmosphere of a clubhouse needs to be and has to be.”

Tebow hater: Wake me up when the Mets release him.

Tebow lover: I’ll leave you with two final thoughts from people in uniform.

Porcello: “I think anything that can bring attention to the game is a good thing, regardless of what sport it is.”

Collins: “What he’s attempting to do, not a lot of guys would even try.”

What exactly is the harm?

Ken Rosenthal is a senior writer for FoxSports.com and a field reporter for MLB on Fox.

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