Certain players make their mark before playing a day of professional sports. Those elite prospects, or the ones that suddenly surged with an outstanding final college or high school season, that have fans and media talking. When the talent and the numbers are the center of the discussion, that's one thing. But personality, legal and behavioral issues change that discussion entirely.
Jameis Winston is under that umbrella. After being accused of rape, whatever talent he showed in both football and baseball became secondary in his story. It was announced earlier this week that the Florida State Attorney will not pursue charges. On Wednesday, a federal lawsuit was filed by the accuser against Florida State University.
Also on Wednesday, Winston ended all debate about his baseball vs. football future when he declared for the 2015 NFL Draft. The two-sport, two-way athlete is no longer a baseball question. And no longer a baseball problem. Because, had he pursued baseball and been drafted, same as in the NFL, he'd be both.
But was Winston ever a true baseball prospect?
In 2011, prospect writer Keith Law tweeted this in response to the question about the FSU QB:
"First round baseball talent if he indicates he'd sign."
In April of 2014, Law was asked again about him. This time, he wasn't sold on him. In response to the question "What kind of prospect is Winston?"
"He's not. Still."
Also in 2014, Baseball America's JJ Cooper pointed out the challenges Winston faced, but also the "potential" he had to be a first rounder. He also shared a BA report from the previous year. Overall, scouts were more convinced of his future in football.
With his decision announcement, that's all laid to rest.
We spent an enormous amount of time talking about him, not just because of his variety of athletic abilities, but because of very serious allegations. What would MLB have done with him? And, now in the NFL, amid so much controversy about domestic and sexual violence, how will they approach this?
Young players receive messages not by talk or pink bats and gear, but by real actions and example. MLB has a long history of brushing violence against women aside, while fighting the good fight for breast cancer awareness, as well as doing things for military families and ALs. Domestic and sexual assault hasn't been a major area of concern. And consequences, well, there weren't any really. They're now working on a MLB Domestic Violence Policy. And the NFL, of course, stands on the front line of that, in part as a reaction to save themselves in the Ray Rice domestic abuse fallout.
Winston wasn't just a possible baseball prospect, but a focal point for debate about violence against women, and how athletes are treated. It's fair to say that the allegations changed some people's desire to see him drafted, and that for others it changed nothing. Jump on Twitter and see the kinds of thoughts people have on women and athletes and violence.
Ultimately, Winston's may be out of the baseball discussion, but hopefully his story opened up more debate, and more concern, about the conduct of young players and what responsibility we expect of them.