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.

MLB executive: Bruce Maxwell’s kneeling may keep him from finding work, not his arrest

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In September 2017, former Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first major league player to kneel during the national anthem, joining the handfuls of NFL players who had been doing the same to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Maxwell’s effort was laudable, but he got into trouble a month later when he was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct. Maxwell allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery person.

Maxwell, 27, played sparingly for the Athletics in 2018 and then was designated for assignment at the beginning of September. He officially became a free agent on November 2 and has had trouble finding work in the month-plus since.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Maxwell fired his agent, Matt Sosnick on Thursday because he’s still jobless. According to an unnamed MLB executive Slusser spoke to, “It’s the kneeling thing that might keep him from getting another job, not the arrest. Owners aren’t going to want to deal with that whole anthem issue.”

That makes a lot of since since abusive players haven’t had too much trouble finding new work otherwise. Addison Russell, Jeurys Familia, and José Reyes, among others have either stayed with their teams or quickly found new work. Given the relatively weak catching market, had Maxwell only had the assault charge, there is no doubt he would have been signed to be a backup catcher somewhere.

In the NFL, Colin Kaepernick — who popularized kneeling during the anthem — has remained unsigned even though teams have opted to sign and start clearly inferior quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez, Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Matt Barkley, and Sam Bradford, among many others. Team owners tend to run conservative in terms of politics, so they may not like the protest to begin with, then there is the public blowback to signing such a player as those who dislike such protesting make up a slight majority in the U.S., according to various polls including one done by the Washington Post.

It’s worth noting that Maxwell has a career .240/.314/.347 triple-slash line in 412 plate appearances. We’re not talking about J.T. Realmuto or Buster Posey here. That being said, there have been 15 other catchers to have put up a lower aggregate OPS since 2016 (min. 400 PA). One of those players, Derek Norris (.600 OPS since 2016), signed a minor league contract with the Tigers just three months after being suspended by Major League Baseball for violating its domestic violence policy. Makes you think.