Adam Wainwright: “I’m obsessed with Tim Tebow”

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Adam Wainwright was at the Cardinals Winter Warm-up over the weekend and he went off baseball for a moment:

“I am obsessed with Tim Tebow.  I’m not afraid to say it. It’s almost embarrassing to us athletes that this much emphasis is put on Tim Tebow because that means we aren’t living our lives as we should. If we did that more often, the way he is living wouldn’t be as big a story. I’m so proud of him for living out his faith.”

I try to avoid football coverage as much as possible, but even I can tell that Wainwright isn’t alone in his obsession. The whole nation went Tebow crazy there for a while. Says a lot more about the whole nation than it does about Tim Tebow, but that’s the case with a lot of things.

I kind of don’t care, and not just because it’s a football thing. Tebow is not the first religious person I’ve encountered. He’s not the first openly evangelical and demonstrative religious person I’ve encountered either. He’s not the first person I’ve encountered whose fame far outstrips his abilities. He views the world very differently than I do and has put himself out there more than a lot of athletes, but I have never had any trouble ignoring what athletes say or do that doesn’t have anything to do with the sports they play. Good for him for being whatever he is. I scratch my head at how much people who love him and hate him get worked up about it.

I do have one Tebow observation that may be relevant, though, and that’s that the phenomenon that is Tebow says an awful lot about the differences between the world in which football operates and the world in which baseball operates.

There are a lot of hard core religious baseball players. Way more than you probably think. The difference is that baseball players play a game nearly every damn day and thus there isn’t a bunch of time in between in which baseball writers have to come up with fresh angles and stories highlighting that fact.

There’s a direct relationship, I think, between the Tebow stuff (or the Ochocinco stuff or T.O. stuff or whatever polarizing figure came before) and the amount of dead time between games. So even if a young, unproven baseball star did exactly the stuff that Tebow did to get his current level of notoriety, it would create far less of a buzz, even once you adjust for football’s greater popularity.  There are just too many games. Too many stories. No one person in baseball is able to suck all of the oxygen out of the room like Tim Tebow is in football.

Evan Longoria: “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.