Sean Doolittle looked down at his phone while sitting in the car. He was in the Nationals Park players’ parking lot following yet another brutish outing. He lasted just a ⅓ of an inning and allowed two home runs against Baltimore on Aug. 8. His ERA spiked to 18.00. Everything, including his Twitter mentions, was a hot mess two weeks into the 60-game season. So, he killed it.
Players eliminating social media happens frequently. Players not actively participating in social media also happens with regularity. Doolittle, however, was a Twitter constant. He talked with fans about the season, Star Wars, social justice, and community-based efforts. No one on the team used Twitter more openly or often. But, he had enough.
“When everything kind of came to a head, I guess it was early August, I just needed a mental break,” Doolittle told NBC Sports Washington. “With everything that was happening in the world, really -- in our country especially -- there was just so much negativity, man. Wasn’t pitching well. Then I found some of that negativity in my mentions. The best thing for me at that point in time was to keep my blinders on and keep focused on what I was trying to do and get myself right, and start pitching better.
“There are a lot of other things in the world that I care about. But baseball still is at the top of that list. I still want to perform well. And pitch well for my team and teammates. I just needed a break. I just needed one less distraction. I just needed a little bit of time to decompress and focus on what I had to do to start being more effective.”
Twitter’s incendiary nature -- a short-pulse, reactionary cesspool filled by users often operating under fake names who face no repercussions -- should always be the caveat when considering what is said on the platform. It’s an inherently terrible place.
For sports, it can also be a direct tie to an athlete. After the Baltimore blow up, Doolittle’s mentions on Twitter combined with his own irritation. So, he said goodbye to @whatwoulddoodo. “This account doesn’t exist” is all that remains after years of activity.
Doolittle expects to reemerge on the platform. He doesn’t know when. He liked it for the directness it offers. In the past, Doolittle would do research before posting about a societal topic, such as when headwear company New Era was planning to close its New York factory to swap union jobs for non-union jobs.
This year, Doolittle’s preseason comment that “sports are like the reward for a functioning society” went viral. It was said during a Zoom press conference but continues to proliferate in Twitter’s echo chamber while the country grapples with a multitude of societal challenges.
He can talk about sports and society in the medium. Or enjoy the silence that comes with eliminating it.
“I used Twitter a lot to connect fans and interact with fans,” Doolittle said. “I’m looking forward to doing that again at some point. I just needed a break with everything that’s happened. I just needed to cleanse it a little bit.”