CC Sabathia: 'I thought Jameis Winston should've played baseball'


Jameis Winston's professional football career hasn't quite gone as planned.

The 2015 first overall pick made NFL history last season -- and not in the best way -- by becoming the first quarterback ever to throw for 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions. He had high points, including two straight performances in which he threw for 450 or more yards (another NFL record). He had low points, including a five-interception game against the Panthers -- a team that, without Winston's abysmal performance, would have finished in the bottom five teams for that statistic.

Now, he's a backup for the New Orleans Saints, and he may not even be the primary backup, considering the burgeoning and intriguing talent that is Taysom Hill. We have to wonder if he regrets his decision to go with football as a career path as opposed to the other sport he was dominating in as a teenager: baseball.

Retired Indians, Brewers and Yankees pitcher (and likely Hall of Famer) CC Sabathia says he should have gone that alternate route. In fact, he even told him that to his face.

"I thought Jameis Winston should have played baseball," Sabathia said on the latest episode of his "R2C2" podcast. "I watched him pitch and I told him that when I met him. I met him in Tampa. I told him that I thought he should have played baseball."

Sabathia wasn't alone. According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Winston was mobbed for autographs and observed by several Yankees in 2014 at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa.

"It's super cool to see what he's doing," Sabathia told USA Today after seeing the then-20-year-old play that day. "I'd love to get an autograph from him some day, maybe a football too."

Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Mark Teixeira were more of the Yankees that got to meet Winston at that game, an experience that the future quarterback said was "probably better than winning the national championship."

So it couldn't have been an easy decision to abandon baseball. For as talented as Winston obviously was as a QB, throwing for 40 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions in his debut season at Florida State, he was nearly as highly touted as a baseball player at one point. In high school, Winston received a perfect 10 rating from Perfect Game, indicating a "potential very high draft pick and/or Elite level college prospect."

His fastball hit 92 as a high school senior in the class of 2012, better than 97.61% of other pitchers his age. He was a switch-hitter, labeled as an "outstanding and versatile athlete," an "outstanding baserunner," and a "unique athlete (who) combines physical talent with surprising instincts and skills." A relief pitcher at FSU, he finished his two-year stint with a 1.94 ERA over 60.1 innings pitched. He had something real, and Sabathia saw it in him.

Sabathia also saw the talent in Kyler Murray, who at one point was the No. 5 high school prospect in all of baseball, at least on Baseball Factory's big board. Sabathia notes, however, that he told Murray to stick with football.

That seems to have been a good decision. If New York sports fans aren't aware of Murray's talent like Sabathia is, they'll probably get a helpful reminder when the Cardinals take on the Jets in Week 5.

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