White Sox

Major League Baseballs social media revolution


Major League Baseballs social media revolution

MESA, Ariz. Two years ago, Lou Piniella had one reaction when reporters told him about Ozzie Guillens latest move: What is Twitter?

The White Sox manager at the time needed less than 24 hours to pick up more than 7,000 followers. Once Piniella found out messages are limited to 140 characters, he dismissed the idea with a laugh line: Ozzie needs more space than that.

Hands in his back pockets, Piniella liked to pace back and forth beneath the Arizona sunshine and tell stories. Yet somehow, a slow game played without a clock would find a match in a head-spinning outlet that goes 247 nonstop. The former Cubs manager had no interest.

Im not really a Facebook or Twitter guy, Piniella said that day. Im a prime rib and baked potato guy.

Its impossible to ignore now. It certainly caused tension within the White Sox organization. It has definitely changed the way the game is covered. Major League Baseball and the players union had to recognize this trend in the latest round of labor negotiations.

While theres no explicit social media policy in the new collective bargaining agreement, a source said the labor deal did allow MLB to distribute a policy memo to players. The Major League Baseball Players Association agreed to handle any grievances that may come out of it.

The memo distributed this month set social media guidelines, which prohibit players from: releasing confidential information; promoting banned substances; posting sexually explicit material; making derogatory remarks; and criticizing umpires. Those are just a few of the bullet points. A major-league source doubted that the possible disciplinary actions have been formalized on paper yet.

Randy Wells had to shut down one Twitter account last August, the day after the Cubs announced Jim Hendry was fired as general manager. Someone hacked into Wells account and blasted the bloggers who used to rip Hendry.

Wells had no idea until a team official told him it was spreading across the Internet. The Cubs pitcher mostly uses it to follow the Red Dirt music scene.

I dont think that Twitter is a place for somebody to speak out about an issue that theyre having, Wells said. Baseballs always had that unwritten rule: What happens in the clubhouse, stays in the clubhouse. Even if I felt the urge to act out, I wouldnt even feel like Twitter was the right place to do it.

Guys should be smart enough not to put dirty laundry out there.

This spring, Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson got heat for posting ex-teammate Mike Napolis phone number on Twitter as a prank, which was not appreciated by the Rangers catcher.

Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer who once restocked the Padres system by dealing Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox has laughed about the bio for the (Fake) Jed Hoyer Twitter account: I love trading All-Stars for prospects any chance I can get.

Over the winter, Paul Maholm broke the news of his signing with the Cubs on Twitter. The ex-Pirate also got into it with some Pittsburgh fans after the Steelers lost an NFL playoff game to Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos. But mostly Maholm uses it as a platform for his faith and charity work.

Im from a small town. Im a pretty quiet guy, Maholm said. Im not going to sit here and start throwing Bible verses (in) your face. Thats me I try (to) be a faithful husband and good father and follow the values of being a Christian.

Thats how I want to live and thats how I strive to live. But as far as me looking down on somebody or trying to say something thats going to offend somebody, youre not really going to get that out of me. Im not perfect. Im not going to say Im perfect. But that kind of comes with the territory.

In the labor negotiations, both sides recognized the opportunities to connect with fans, grow the game and build their brands. Thats another point of emphasis in the new social media policy.

I like interacting with people, Cubs third baseman Ian Stewart said. I was a huge baseball fan growing up. Me and my buddies would send letters to different guys in the clubhouse and just see who we could get responses from. (It) would do wonders for us.

(Now) its cool because if someone says, Hey, its my birthday today, I just wanted to know if you could retweet this, you just write happy birthday. People will be like, Oh, my gosh, I cant believe you actually responded to this! Its like the best birthday present ever!

It makes me happy that I can do that for somebody, (something) as little as that that took no time.

All it takes is one click. Thats why another MLB memo this month reminded players that a tweet is a public statement to a mass audience, not a private text message to a friend. And if you wouldnt feel comfortable saying it at a press conference, you shouldnt post it on social media.

Once something is posted, you will not be able to retract it, the memo read. Once you hit send, your message becomes public information that can be forwarded and reported by the media.

In the age of Google and camera phones, its difficult enough for an average person to protect his privacy, much less a millionaire athlete.

Facebook is getting out of hand, Wells said. Only friends can have pictures. Well, I was at one point where I thought I was cool. I was accepting everybody, trying to get as many fans as I could.

And then you have a couple bad games and somebody takes a picture of you and steals it right off your Facebook and uses it in a blog, and its like: What the (expletive)?

I dont think thats stuff that should be taken away from people or frowned upon, but at the same time, you just have to be smart. You have to be an adult about it and be careful who you let in.

Like it or not, you better get used to it. One night last August, Mike Quade sat seething inside the managers office at Turner Field.

Once Quade was done burying Carlos Zambrano in Atlanta His lockers empty. I dont know where hes at. I heard he might retire the ex-Cubs manager spit out two words for the reporters punching their BlackBerrys, right there in front of his face.

Nice tweets.

A White Sox fan's guide to watching the World Series


A White Sox fan's guide to watching the World Series

The White Sox are not playing in the World Series. A 100-loss season will do that.

But just because the South Siders aren't playing doesn't mean White Sox fans shouldn't pay attention to the Fall Classic. There's plenty to take from this matchup between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers that applies to South Side baseball past, present and — most importantly — future.

Chris Sale

The guy who will throw the first pitch of the 2018 World Series is one of the greatest White Sox pitchers of all time.

Sale's been grabbing headlines the last few days for an alleged belly-button ring, but the only body part of his that matters come Tuesday night is his left arm. Since the White Sox traded Sale away in the deal that kick-started the rebuild, he's been arguably the best pitcher in baseball, putting up a 2.56 ERA in 59 regular-season starts, with 545 strikeouts in his 372.1 innings. He's made five postseason appearances with the Red Sox and hasn't fared quite as well, the overall numbers ugly thanks to a seven-run outing against the eventual-champion Houston Astros last year. But this fall, he's given up just four runs and struck out 14 batters in 10.1 innings.

Sale's status as one of the game's best hurlers is a reminder of a couple things for White Sox fans watching him wear differently colored Sox this fall: 1. why they liked him so much in the first place, and 2. what kind of price it took for Boston to get him. The K Zone can be reborn, if only briefly and in the comfort of White Sox fans' own homes, for Sale's appearances in this World Series. But more importantly to the future of the South Side franchise, Sale's continued excellence is a reinforcement of the potential of Michael Kopech and Yoan Moncada, the two biggest names in the return package. It took those guys and their incredibly high ceilings to get a pitcher as good as Sale, and that's still a good sign for the White Sox future.

This is how you rebuild

The Red Sox have a reputation as one of baseball's biggest spenders, but their roster is rife with the fruits of player development, something the rebuilding White Sox are trying to yield in their contending team of the future.

Boston has a couple big-ticket players in David Price and J.D. Martinez, but they're two of just four free-agent signings on the Red Sox World Series roster. Meanwhile, a whopping seven were drafted by Boston, including the entire starting outfield: Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr. and likely AL MVP Mookie Betts. The left side of their infield is a pair of international signings in Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts, so that means five of the Red Sox starting nine position players (five and a half if you count Christian Vazquez, one half of the Red Sox catching tandem) have never known another organization.

The Red Sox might not win this World Series, but their roster makeup isn't dissimilar from the last two teams that hoisted a trophy, the Cubs and Astros, who boasted their own groups of homegrown stars. And here's something you might not realize: Boston had back-to-back last-place finishes in the AL East in 2014 and 2015, during which they rid themselves of veteran contracts and earned a couple high draft picks. They made the No. 7 pick in the 2016 draft for all that losing. The result? Benintendi.

And so it's another October with a team proving that the tear-down-and-rebuild method can work wonders. White Sox fans might not be rooting for the Red Sox this fall, but their victory would be another for the rebuilding strategy — and should give plenty of hope to South Side fans envisioning their own group of homegrown stars leading a championship run one day.

Manny Machado

The World Series will allow White Sox fans to do a little bit of scouting on some free agents that the South Siders could pursue this winter, and there's no bigger name in that category than Machado, the Dodgers shortstop expected to receive one of the biggest contracts in baseball history this offseason.

Many a Twitter-using White Sox fan have had Machado on their wish list for years, though that number might be declining following some of Machado's words and actions during the NLCS. He didn't run to first on a grounder, then ignited a PR disaster by saying hustling wasn't his "cup of tea." He interfered with a pair of double-play turns by sticking his hand up while sliding into second base (the same play that, during a Crosstown game last month, ended with White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson screaming at umpire Joe West). And Machado most notably dragged his foot over Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar's leg in a play Aguilar's teammates called dirty after the game.

So with all that in mind, Machado and his extreme amount of talent — he's at the end of a career year that saw him slash .297/.367/.538 with 37 homers and 107 RBIs during the regular season — will be on the game's biggest stage for all to see. That includes his future team, whichever that might be. Those White Sox fans still hoping he lands on the South Side to help kick the rebuild into overdrive can watch this World Series to see just how good he is with the bat and with the glove. On the latter, should the White Sox be willing to rearrange their infield for Machado, who is insistent on playing shortstop despite his two Gold Gloves at third base? Watch and see.

Other free agents to be

But Machado's not the only player in this matchup who'll be hitting the free-agent market this winter.

Before either of these teams punched their tickets to the Fall Classic, I wrote about a pair of pitchers who will be free agents this offseason and who could make sense for the White Sox, and lo and behold they're both going to make starts in this World Series. Hyun-Jin Ryu is slated to get the ball for the Dodgers in Wednesday's Game 2, and though yet to be announced, we'll likely see Nathan Eovaldi go for the Red Sox when the series shifts to Los Angeles.

Rick Hahn said the White Sox will be looking to add pitching this offseason, and Ryu and Eovaldi will both be available. Either would be an upgrade in a South Side rotation that led baseball in walks this season. Eovaldi walked just 20 guys all year, 12 in 54 innings with the Red Sox and only eight in 57 innings with the Tampa Bay Rays. That's compared to a season strikeout total of 101, for a better than 5:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Ryu, meanwhile, walked only 15 batters in his 82.1 innings, compared to 89 strikeouts. His ERA was a pencil-thin 1.97, significantly lower than Eovaldi's still quite good 3.81 number, which was 3.33 after the midseason trade from the Tampa. Could either one be a future White Sox starter? Maybe.

Boston closer Craig Kimbrel is also heading to free agency and could be of interest to White Sox fans who don't see a future closer among the team's crop of young relievers. He's going to cost a lot, though, a seven-time All Star with a 1.91 career ERA and eight straight seasons of at least 31 saves (40-plus in five of those).

Other bullpen guys who will be looking for jobs this winter: Joe Kelly of the Red Sox (one earned run allowed in 5.1 innings this postseason) and Ryan Madson of the Dodgers (one run allowed in 6.1 innings this postseason).

Oh, and Dodgers Game 1 starter Clayton Kershaw could be a free agent, too, if he opts out of his current contract. The White Sox would figure to be quite a longshot to lure him away from Southern California, but if Kershaw were to go somewhere else, that could shake up the whole market and open up other possibilities for teams like the White Sox. Something to keep in mind.

The next important trend

The World Series and the postseason in general have been ground zero for some of the game's latest sweeping changes in recent years.

Specifically, the emphasis on relief pitching has dominated the last couple Fall Classics, and teams like the Brewers and Rays showed how good a team can be while leaning as heavily on the bullpen as any team ever has. While this World Series might not feature teams practicing "bullpenning" to those extremes, the relief corps again figure to play starring roles. If that happens, how does that impact the White Sox rebuild? Does a heavy focus on starting-pitching depth need to shift to a bigger focus on relief-pitching depth? Or do the lists of future free-agent relievers become of greater interest than players at any other position?

Or perhaps an entirely new trend is born this fall that the White Sox will have to react to while constructing their teams of the future. You won't know unless you watch the World Series.

We've officially found the biggest Michael Jordan fan ever

We've officially found the biggest Michael Jordan fan ever

There are diehard Michael Jordan fans.

And then there's this guy.

Forget anybody getting a tattoo of their favorite team's championship trophy. Forget the people who wait for hours in terrible weather just to catch a glimpse of their favorite player.

This dude has a constant, 24/7 reminder of "His Airness":

Yep, that is a full tattoo of a Jordan "23" jersey on his back, complete with a Michael Jordan "autograph" in the middle of the "2." 

Dedication at its finest.

Couple questions: 

A) Does it carry over to the front at all? And if not, is that a plan for the future?

2) Will one of his buddies get a "45" Jordan jersey tattoo or are we just gonna continue to pretend that era never happened?

D) What will that tat look like in a few years? That guy better stay away from the Doritos...