Last night the Cleveland Browns selected Johnny Manziel with the 22nd overall pick in the NFL Draft. Manziel is known to many as “Johnny Football”, a nickname given to him because “Johnny Quarterback” was too specific.
Browns fans are excited to see the former Texas A&M star and Heisman Trophy winner on the football field, but we all know the team’s brutal past history with first round quarterbacks. While Manziel has job security for now, he might be a bust and would then be in need of a new profession. Luckily, Manziel played baseball through his junior year of high school, so he wouldn’t have to see how 3/4 of a sports management major fares in the current job market.
In fact, Manziel stated last April:
”I do miss (baseball). I would love to play. But I chose a different path. Football became center stage in my life when I always thought I would play baseball.”
If Manziel does indeed fail, it would make sense that he would look to sign with the Indians. Manziel would be eligible for the MLB draft, but you can imagine he’d want to stay in Cleveland. After all, if Manziel is a bust, the Cleveland fans will still treat him well (in order to give him the best environment to succeed), and that treatment would give him the confidence to give baseball a try.
Therefore, it is clearly a worthwhile exercise, and not at all a desperate attempt to get pageviews, to take a look at how Manziel would fare on the baseball field.
I was unable to find Manziel’s full stat line as a high school shortstop, but I found in an article on MaxPreps that Manziel batted .412 as a sophomore and .416 as a junior. Unfortunately, nobody has created a system for translating Texas high school baseball stats to MLB stats, so we’ll have to put a bit more effort into estimating Manziel’s batting ability.
To do that, we’ll take a look at some video footage. In May of 2013, Manziel took batting practice at PetCo Park before a Padres game. He hit one pitch off the left field wall, and MLB.com posted a video of one of his swings. Here it is:
Manziel’s swing doesn’t look too bad for a guy who hasn’t played baseball in 4 years. It would take some work to get his timing down with that big leg kick, but his hands stay back and he drives through the ball well.
However, there’s one notable part of this GIF: Manziel is wearing JEANS. You really have to question his commitment to the game, don’t you? Someone needs to tell this kid that he is ON a club, not IN a club. He’ll have to put more effort into looking like ballplayer if he wants to make the Tribe.
While Manziel played shortstop in high school, it would be worth it to at least give him a shot on the mound. He is just under six feet tall, but the fact that he was drafted in the first round suggests that he has a strong enough arm to give pitching a shot. If the Tribe were to use Manziel as a stater, they could even have him pinch run on off-days, taking advantage of the speed that allowed him to run the 40-yard-dash in 4.68 seconds at the NFL Combine.
The same day he took batting practice at PetCo, Manziel also threw out the first pitch. This is a good chance to look at Manziel’s mechanics on a major league mound with the pressure of throwing in front of a crowd. Let’s take look:
Well, THAT was disappointing. Manziel balks the second he gets on the mound, then seems to lose his footing as he falls toward the first base side. Not a good start. The pitch was clearly too high, though to be fair, the catcher did a very poor job of framing the pitch. No umpire would call a strike if the catcher caught the ball behind his back. Manziel needs to learn to be a true leader, and get in his catcher’s face about such an thoughtless play.
We’ll have to wait and see if Manziel succeeds in the NFL. If he doesn’t, baseball seems to be a good option, but he’ll have to start taking the game more seriously. He has the talent, but needs to get his head straightened out.