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.

Players are waking up and getting ready to fight

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There’s this idea out there that the owners have been eating the players’ lunch at the bargaining table in recent years because the players are, generally, rich and happy and maybe don’t care about a lot of the stuff the previous couple of generations of players did. There is probably some degree of truth to that. The difference between a good deal and a bad deal, in both collective bargaining and on the free agent market, is way less dire now than it used to be and thus the urgency may not have been there over the past several years the way it was in 1981 or 1994.

But it goes too far to say that such a mindset is universal among players. Or that it’s a mindset which, even among those who hold it, will always persist. Players may not have been as vigilant about labor matters over the past several years as they used to be, but they’re not idiots and, at some point, the owners are gonna push ’em too far and they’ll respond.

As we find ourselves in the second straight offseason in which teams simply don’t seem all too keen on signing free agents, it’s starting to happen already.

Earlier this week Dallas Keuchel tweeted out some things critical of the current market and teams’ approach to it (and took another swipe today). This afternoon Giants third baseman Evan Longoria chimed in on Instagram, posting a picture of Keuchel, Craig Kimbrel, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, and saying the following:

We are less then a month from the start of spring and once again some of our games biggest starts remain unsigned. Such a shame. It’s seems every day now someone is making up a new analytical tool to devalue players, especially free agents. As fans, why should “value” for your team even be a consideration? It’s not your money, it’s money that players have worked their whole lives to get to that level and be deserving of. Bottom line, fans should want the best players and product on the field for their team. And as players we need to stand strong for what we believe we are worth and continue to fight for the rights we have fought for time and time again.

Most of that is common sense, the sort of which we’ve been arguing for around here for some time. Fans should care about good players and winning baseball games, not whether or not their front office can get a great bargain for its own sake. It may be interesting to talk about payroll and salaries and wins/$, but the point of baseball is to win, right? When so many teams seem rather uninterested in that, it’s a problem that all of the interesting analytical insights can’t really make up for.

The second part is worth keeping your eyes on. Maybe players have not been on a war footing the likes of which their predecessors were in the 1970s through the 1990s, but it doesn’t mean they won’t get back there if pushed. As is abundantly clear, the owners are pushing. Salaries are dropping in both an absolute sense and, especially, compared to baseball’s revenues. Players are getting a smaller piece of the pie than they have in a while and ownership seems quite pleased to see that continue.

If players are saying stuff like this publicly, it means that players are talking about it amongst themselves privately. The last two years have likely served as quite a wakeup call for them, and they seem to be waking up. Evan Longoria is. Dallas Keuchel is. So are some others. If current trends continue, more and more will wake up.

The current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires following the 2021 season. What happens over the rest of this offseason and the next two is going to determine the mood of the players. The mood of the players, in turn, is going to dictate the tenor of negotiations. If they were to begin right now, those negotiations would be very, very rocky.