Is Baseball Keeping Jameis Winston from Becoming the Next Johnny Manziel?

Brian LeighFeatured ColumnistMarch 17, 2014

Florida State's Jameis Winston stretches before a spring training exhibition game against the New York Yankees Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014, in Tampa, Fla. Winston is the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

Jameis Winston is a man of many passions, and one of those passions is baseball: a sport he plays during the spring months at Florida State University, when he is not busy quarterbacking the football team to a national championship or winning the Heisman Trophy.

Winston became the second freshman to claim said hardware in 2013, doing so just one year after the first, Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M. This is exactly why—or at least why some might claim—his spot on the baseball team this spring is so important.

It will keep him from becoming "Jameis Football."

In this argument, baseball is good for Jameis because it will help him abstain from the trappings of fame that got Manziel into trouble last offseason. Splitting time between two Division I sports this spring, he will not have time to get caught partying shirtless in Cabo or flying to Canada to sit backstage at a Drake concert.

His leaked, embarrassing videos will be contained to The Robot:

I understand the reasoning of this argument, and I guess baseball can't hurt Winston's ability to stay out of trouble this offseason.

Especially this next month and a half, the heavy workload will not allow for much in the way of a social life. And the more time Jameis spends on a sporting field, the better—or at least the safer.

Still, I think it's a stretch to insinuate what this argument insinuates. Specifically, it's my belief that if a kid is going to misbehave, he is going to misbehave. If he is going to party this summer—and not that mere partying is misbehaving—a heavy spring schedule will not stop him. I don't expect Winston to become "Jameis Football" this offseason, but not for lack of opportunity.

Dec 5, 2013; Tallahassee, FL, USA; State attorney Willie Meggs announces that Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston (not pictured) was not going to be charged with any crime following allegations of sexual assault. Mandatory Credit: Mike Ewen
Tallahassee Democrat-USA TODAY S

The only thing that's stopping him is him.

Winston, of course, was accused of and investigated for sexual assault toward the latter part of his redshirt freshman season. After a thorough inquiry into the matter, state attorney Willie Meggs decided there were not enough facts to pursue the case and dropped the charges, according to Mark Schlabach of

Under the American doctrine of "innocent until proven guilty," we have no right to speculate on what Winston did or didn't actually do. He was not proven guilty, so for all intents and purposes, he is innocent. In the context of this argument, however, that is not the pressing concern.

Unlike Manziel, Winston was humbled before the end of his Heisman Trophy campaign. He has seen the ruinous downside of being in the spotlight. If coming so close to jail time didn't teach Winston to mind his actions closely and stay out of trouble this offseason, it's safe to say that nothing ever will. Least of all just playing baseball.

This is a good thing, by the way.

If Winston needs the distraction of another sport to keep from partying too hard or selling autographs, he isn't as mature as he needs to be. If those are lessons he still needs to learn, baseball is just delaying the inevitable. They'll rear their ugly heads at some point in his future.

When I say baseball won't keep Winston from becoming the new "Johnny Football," it is intended, instead, as a compliment. I think both conceptually and via experience, he understands those lessons and will keep his head down through the whole of the offseason.

Even once baseball is over.

Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

The opportunity will be there for Winston to make mistakes. He's a celebrity now. People want to drink with him and dance with him and take pictures while he's drinking and dancing. That is how this works.

If it's simply that innocuous—and yes, I know Winston is not 21 years old, but come on—and a picture or two leaks this summer, it would be unfair to call him "Jameis Football." Like Manziel last offseason, the stories of his beer-goggled deviance would be overblown.

If it is less innocuous—e.g. Manziel's "Signature-Gate," which led to a one-half suspension but almost much more—the fault will be on Winston, as a person, for not being smart enough to keep out of the wire. After all he went though last season, you would think he ought to be wiser. If he's not, he's not. That's on him and only him.

Either way, the offseason is a long one, and Winston will have time sufficient to get into trouble between baseball season and the start of fall football practice. If he doesn't become "Jameis Football," it will not be because baseball narrowed the sample size.

It will simply be because he isn't "Jameis Football."


Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT