The Yankees, like most other major league teams, look at players use of social media with understandable trepidation, but also with the knowledge that it’s here to stay, for better or worse. They don’t ban it for that reason. But at the same time, they see it as a ticking time bomb, which if used in the wrong way, can cause harm not only to the player but the Yankees brand as well.
The Yankees conduct what we might call a Media Review Day during Spring Training of each season. Needless to say, these sessions used to be far less complicated and time-consuming than they are today. And that is because “the media” now includes far more than newspaper, television, and radio interviews and exchanges with the team’s beat reporters.
Traditionally, players were more likely to be on the defense in the sense that they were the ones asked the questions, and their comments were mostly limited to answering these issues. Today, it’s a who new ballgame, whereby players can take the offense on any one of several social media accounts to broadcast their own views 24/7.
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Recently, we’ve seen the emergence of such stars as Noah Syndergaard taking to Twitter and capturing the attention of thousands of baseball fans, plus the curious onlookers, in a humorous and (reportedly) very compelling way. But, one might shudder to think what might happen after a bad start in a crucial game at 3:00 AM when Syndergaard is alone and brooding in his hotel room on the road.
In a more negative way, Curt Schilling has taken to today’s airwaves broadcasting his political views which most say buck the trend of political thinking today. The result for him has been a barrage of vocal criticism on those same airwaves, as well as the loss of critical votes for the Hall of Fame in this year’s balloting.
NJ.com reporter, Ryan Hatch, was on hand to relay the message that was delivered last year during Spring Training regarding the use of social media and the media in general, by its players.
Front and center (no surprise) Derek Jeter, who appeared in a video presentation for the players.
Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Arguably, there is not another Yankee player who handled the media better than Jeter. Handled, being the key word. And reporters will tell stories all night long about how they once asked Jeter a far-reaching question, which he answered fully, only to find that when they checked their recording of his response, there was nothing there worthy of printing.
So, Jeter is the exception that begs the question, what about all the other “normal” human beings in the room. What was in it for them? Well, if you listen to Jeter carefully, and even though he wasn’t talking specifically about social media, there is some common sense logic in what he says:
“Jeter was asked the question of why it’s smart to “be humble with the media,” and said the answer is “quite simple.”
If you’re not, Jeter said, the media will humble you on their own. In baseball he explained, you’re going to fail more than you succeed, so if you walk around with your chest puffed out, it’s only a matter of time until you crash and the media will let you hear it.”
“Be humble.” Today’s social media, and especially Twitter with their built in 40 character limit, is made for quick bursts of energy, egotism, and testosterone if that is your choice. You say what you want, and get out. The trouble, of course, is that once you say it, it’s almost impossible to get out. Because by the time you realize – oops! – your tweet is already re-tweeted hundreds of times.
If you Google almost any Yankee player, even those in the minor leagues, you will find that they have a Twitter account. After all, it’s a right of passage these days to have one (me too). As stated before, the Yankees have not reached the point of attempting to ban players from using them, but I bet if you asked Brian Cashman if he would like to, he’d say yes in a New York minute.
Driving to work the other day, I heard Steve Phillips, the former General Manager of the New York Mets, speaking about this topic on MLB XM Radio. Phillips said that if he were a GM today, it’s one of the first things he would do. But of course, he’s not a GM today, so that’s easy to say.
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Training is good. The Yankees have the right idea. But, it’s based on the age old premise that you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. Sometimes, though, that’s all you can do – train and teach. And hope that the message gets through. Let’s just hope this group of Yankees can get us through a season without a Schilling-like episode.
There will be another media session taking place in a few weeks in Tampa. It’s a good bet that the topics this year will focus more on social media than they have in the past. Can’t hurt.