The New York Mets promoted the hottest player in the minor leagues on Sunday, and it didn't take long for people to question why.
The guy is hitting .222 with three home runs and 69 strikeouts in 63 games. Normally, that kind of performance would get a player a demotion.
Tim Tebow is not a normal player.
He really is the hottest player in the minor leagues. Not by old-fashioned measurements like batting average, but by an even older business metric:
Give the customers what they want.
"It's not like he's tearing up the league," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said. "But at the same time all indications are positive in terms of various things we look at — chase rates and exit velocity."
I'm not sure about chase rates, but I'm confident exit velocity means the speed at which dollars are flowing out of fans' wallets.
The average attendance for Tebow's Mets-affiliated Columbia Fireflies games in the Low-A South Atlantic League was 5,230, which was about 1,500 more than last year. Road attendance was up about 2,200 fans from what teams usually draw.
Baseball America estimated Tebow would have generated $3.1 million in additional revenue over 70 road games this year. Now the cash cow is moving to the High-A Florida State League.
It's no coincidence that the Mets do not own the Fireflies. They do own the St. Lucie Mets, so the Tebow Effect will go right into their coffers.
To a sports purist, that's not a good enough reason to promote Tebow to a high Class A league. I used to be pure, but I've been diluted by the Danica Effect.
That would be Danica Patrick, who has the same number of NASCAR wins as Tebow. But she's remains one of the circuit's most and least popular drivers. Love her or hate her, she has brought NASCAR about a zillion dollars' worth of attention.
I can't quite bring myself to call Tebow the Danica of Baseball. For one thing, it's not all about marketing. He hasn't come out with his own clothing line, cookbooks and yoga videos or posed in a G-string on top of a dugout.
And unlike Patrick, he's never griped about getting booed or ridiculed. The Charleston RiverDogs took it to the extreme last weekend with a Tebow promotional night.
When players came to bat, their picture appeared on the outfield scoreboard with a "Not Tim Tebow" graphic. Behind it was an image of Tebow crying during Florida's 2009 SEC Championship Game loss to Alabama.
That was funny, except to Gators fans. The RiverDogs went too far when they played the "Hallelujah Chorus" when Tebow came to bat. And their mascot wore "John 3:16" eyeblack and struck the "Tebowing" pose, recalling when Tebow used to kneel in prayer after scoring a touchdown.
A less forgiving soul would have accused Charleston of mocking his religion. Tebow just went about his Tebow business.
He cheerfully signed autographs, said he was having a great time in the minors and took about 16 hours of batting practice before each game.
Tebow hasn't torn up the league, but what he's done is pretty impressive for a 29-year-old who hadn't played baseball since he was a high school junior.
"The bottom line is the average isn't there," Alderson said. "But he's improving."
There's even talk that if he keeps this up the Mets might make him a September call-up. That would rankle purists who judge players by chase rates, exit velocity and slugging percentage.
Fans judge more by how a player makes them feel. And regardless of his batting average, Tebow is turning out to be quite a hit.