Burke Badenhop made his Major League debut on April 9, 2008 when he tossed a scoreless inning of relief for the Marlins. In the eight years that followed, he pitched 512 1/3 innings of 3.74 ERA ball with the Marlins, Rays, Brewers, Red Sox and Reds. He’s been a part of four trades (most notably the Miguel Cabrera/Dontrelle Willis blockbuster), tested Major League free agency and been in more than a dozen Major League and minor league clubhouses. We are thrilled to have Burke bring some of that unique perspective to MLB Trade Rumors. This is his fifth offering; he has previously written about the long path to reaching free agency, importance of September roster expansion, the experience of playing the spoiler and how big leaguers separate themselves from the teams for which they grew up cheering.
Upon hearing that Tim Tebow had been training for the better part of a year to play baseball, I didn’t think much of it. I figured he would have a showcase, scouts would show up, and the baseball world would get to see what the Heisman great and former NFLer had to offer. If he were any good, he’d show promise in his workout. I completely assumed and understood that he would be given a bit more benefit of the doubt thanks to his name alone.
As you know, the reviews on Tebow were mixed after the workout. Most reports praised his power, were skeptical of his outfield work, and noted his arm was well below average. The critique that stuck with me most was a scout’s view that Tebow looked like “an actor trying to portray a baseball player.” Such a description summed up so many things in just one sentence. I pictured Bernie Mac hacking away in Mr. 3000 or Freddie Prinze Jr.’s rudimentary mechanics from Summer Catch. The average fan might not notice, but as a pro baseball player, you know the difference between a ballplayer and someone who’s just dressed as one for Halloween.
I checked out the video from the workout out of curiosity. Tebow’s swing looked fine to me. It was definitely long, but it was powerful and fell far short of looking as bad as a Charles Barkley golf swing. Tebow’s outfield work definitely left more to be desired, though. He shagged fly balls with an awkward ‘five step drop’ type of footwork. And I couldn’t stop looking at his glove. Not the type of glove or the color or anything, but how it was broken in. It was just wrong. It didn’t have a pocket, it was bent in a weird way and he had all five fingers in each finger hole, which I’ve never seen an outfielder do.
Despite all the red flags I saw and read about, I figured someone would still sign him. I had no problem with that. He had some pop from the left side. You can teach him how to break a glove in later. The problem for me arose when I heard he signed for $100,000, the equivalent of a bonus for a top ten round draft pick. For some reason, it hurt. It stung.
Big leaguers are found all over the draft. For every first-round superstar like Kris Bryant, you’ll find a Daniel Murphy in the 13th round. I was drafted in the 19th round as a college senior. I signed for $1,000. You could draft 100 of me for the price of one Tim Tebow. Such a thought only elicits feelings of disrespect.
I fully realize that Tebow will sell a lot of jerseys and will entice far more fans to come to the ballpark than I ever did. From a business standpoint, he will probably be profitable. But, as a former player, those ends don’t necessarily justify the means. Taking a roster spot on a minor league team is one thing, but also handing a guy $100,000 is another. This move comes in a day and age when minor leaguers are finally standing up and voicing their displeasure with how their salaries have drastically lagged behind the overall financial growth in our game. I immediately thought of all the struggles you have as a minor leaguer — all of the two-bedroom apartments you end up sharing with five guys. I would have killed for even a $5,000 bonus.
To see a team give a 29-year-old with no baseball experience a six-figure bonus because he was good at college football was confusing. The road to “The Show” isn’t a walk in the park. You don’t get to the big leagues as a 19th-rounder and stay without earning it. It was a badge of honor for me. This signing makes it seem that maybe teams don’t take the grind as seriously as the players do. It sends a very mixed message.
As a minor leaguer you have to believe that talent wins the day. That if you are talented enough, you’ll become a big leaguer. Without that basic belief, you’d be crazy to spend a summer riding a bus from small town to small town, making less than $7,500 per season.
Whether the Mets signed Tebow because they believe in his baseball ability or because they want to sell jerseys is a mystery. The whole nature of it, though, does nothing but cast doubt that talent will eventually win the day. As I said before, I was somewhat angry when I saw the details of the signing. I’m not angry with Tim Tebow. He didn’t force any team to sign him. As a player who defied the odds to carve out a career in the big leagues, my emotions were just another reminder that for guys like me, maybe our grind to the top isn’t as respected as we’d like to believe.