ESPN First Take shout fest combatants Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman on Friday centered a debate around the question of whether or not Tim Tebow will play major league baseball. Kellerman raved about the Class AA minor leaguer and predicted he will make baseball's top level, while Smith said he'll get eaten alive by major league pitching.
Tebow just made the Eastern League all-star team as a member of the New York Mets' Binghamton Rumble Ponies minor league team. After a sluggish start in April and May, Tebow had a sizzling month of June and gained newfound respect. There has been speculation the Mets might possibly add him to their major league roster in September. That's the scenario that was queued up for Smith and Kellerman, who put the debate "ball" into play.
"Tebow is incredible," Kellerman started. "First thing in the recent past, you know the obit would have been his religiosity, Stephen A., and that will still be in there." But now Tebow's baseball abilities are overtaking the knock he has taken from media about his strong Christian faith and passing difficulties in the NFL:
"But I think his athletic ability has to be the first line now. He is arguably not only the greatest college player ever. You know what he's doing? Yes his fame afforded him opportunity—he hadn't played baseball since high school! And he is trending in the right way in AA. He's hitting over .300 for a month in AA. His numbers are respectable already in AA! The guy is an incredible athlete, and he is proving me wrong."
Smith was in the past extremely critical of Tebow the NFL quarterback, especially in his epic yelling matches with Tebow defender Skip Bayless when the two were paired together in a previous debate program at ESPN. Smith conceded Tebow is making progress, but he isn't ready to issue him a Mets' uniform yet:
"As long as he's not throwing the football I have no problem with that. Bottom line is he's improved, he's looked good. He's got, like what? I think his strikeout rate is like, you know, 41.9 ... he'll get eaten alive in the majors. But you do bring up a very valid point that can't be refuted, Max. He would be going to the Mets! And they're 14 games under .500, they got the second-worst record in the National League and the fourth-worst record overall in baseball. They're clearly not a story. Pale significantly in comparison to the Yankees. They're pretty close to irrelevant! We all know that, so if you wanna steal a headline ... if you wanna be the talk of New York for a few weeks and generate some dollars, certainly you --
Kellerman: "-- you talk about Tim Tebow."
Smith: "But if you're striking out at a 41.9 percent rate in AA how am I to believe what you're gonna do at the major league level? I'm hoping for 'my friend' to be all right and make it to the majors. But my goodness --"
Kellerman said Tebow got his chance in professional baseball because he's famous, but he still deserves a lot of credit:
"But how many, even of the ones who could do it at the age of 29 or 30 could do it had they not played baseball in over a decade! It is remarkable! Stephen A., even before this recent hot streak he was keeping his head above water at AA. But right now he's legitimately hitting well at AA! And he's an athlete to boot, too. This guy's gonna make the majors."
Also in defense of Tebow, Kellerman said that major league teams stash players at the Class AA level whom they believe have the potential to make it to the majors.