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LOVERRO: Bud Selig’s parting gift should be convincing Jameis Winston to stick with baseball

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 11, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION

Jameis Winston is a preseason All-American – in baseball.

Baseball America named the Florida State Heisman Trophy winner to its preseason third team All-American squad, putting him in its "utility" slot."

Winston played right field and pitched out of the bullpen for the Seminoles last year as a freshman. He started two games in left field and 20 in right, as well as a designated hitter in 10 games.

He batted just .235 with nine RBI, a .377 on base percentage and a .345 slugging percentage.

That's not bad for a relief pitcher.

Yes, Winston threw 27 innings out of the bullpen, striking out 21 with a 3.00 ERA.

Pretty good for a freshman in ACC baseball.

So this is what baseball commissioner Bud Selig needs to – go to Tallahassee, sit down with Winston, and explain to him the wisdom of choosing Major League Baseball as a career over the National Football League.

Or else pay him a lot of money.

Selig is on his way out as commissioner – at least that is what he says. And, as time passes, his tenure looks better and better. The game has never been healthier financially, with record revenues of more than $8 billion. Regional television networks have replaced new ballparks as a revenue bonanza. Attendance has risen to more than 75 million a year consistently in the past few years.

But the NFL still looms large over baseball. The 2012 revenues were $9.5 billion, and television ratings are skyrocketing. Nearly 112 million people watched the Seahawks-Broncos blowout, the most viewers ever.

The NFL, though, has problems – big problems. The concussion settlement they reached with thousands of former players is on hold, with many more pending that were not part of the deal. Parents around the country are wondering how safe it is to let their kids play football.

The league has huge stadiums with empty seats, as the game experience is losing out to 60-inch high definition televisions in homes. The NFL may be rolling in money, but it's also vulnerable.

So now is the time for baseball to strike a damaging blow – stealing the Heisman Trophy winner. The symbolism of such a decision would send a signal to a generation of young athletes that there are better, smarter options to make money using your talents other than risking life, limb and scrambled brains 30 years later.

Winston said recently Florida State football coach Jimbo Fisher was right when he said that the Heisman winner might play two more years of college football. "Obviously I'm a big baseball person, so that's an accurate statement because I plan on playing baseball next season anyway," Winston told the Associated Press.

Selig should find out how big a baseball person. It would be a heck of an exit for him.

The Texas Rangers drafted Winston in the 15th round of the 2012 draft out of high school, and even agreed to let him play for FSU while working out with the team. He declined, but Winston said he chose FSU because it would allow him to play both football and baseball.

I'm not talking about the Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders circus of playing both professional sports. I'm talking about baseball and only baseball – the best player in college football throwing curveballs instead of passes.

This may require an act by Selig under the best interests of the game – to do away with the necessities of drafting and slotting and rookie contracts and all that stuff. Come up with a figure and a team that would be attractive to Winston, and show him how he can start making money now – real money – and stop with those distractions like books and classes.

This is the very essence of the argument that baseball needs to win with today's athletes. Show Winston that while Tony Romo has a $108 million contract, only $55 million of that is guaranteed. He gets hurt in a few years, and the Cowboys don't have to pay the rest of that contract.

Clayton Kershaw just signed a seven-year, $215 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers. His arm falls off next week, and the Dodgers still owe him $215 million.

Winston not a starter? Okay, Jonathan Papelbon has made $53 million in nine years throwing pitches one inning at a time, and is slated to make another $39 million.

And he won't be on radio row at the 2040 Super Bowl talking about how he can't remember the way home sometimes.

• Thom Loverro is co-host of "The Sports Fix," noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 radio and espn980.com

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