Marlins' Bell sounds off on Showtime program
MIAMI — Heath Bell used to have more than 60,000 followers on Twitter. His wife and older daughter also were active on social media.
But no more.
"We're all off social media," the Miami Marlins relief pitcher said in an interview with FOX Sports Florida. "I had to take us down. Nobody has Facebook or Twitter."
Bell said there were so many negative comments that came out of the Showtime series "The Franchise: A Season with the Miami Marlins" that it affected his family. Bell, who struggled early in the season but has pitched better recently, also said about his portrayal on the series that "Showtime made me out to be a jerk."
Regarding his wife and four children — ages 3, 4, 10 and 14 — Bell said hurtful things were written that family members saw on Twitter and Facebook and elsewhere.
"I think it's stupid," Bell said when first asked his opinion on the Showtime series. "For the simple fact that it ruined my family and everybody really wasn't nice to my family and my wife."
Bell's wife, Nicole, was shown in one episode having a sushi dinner with three wives of other players. Another episode depicted Bell at his San Diego-area home with his wife, two daughters and two sons. One of his daughters, 10-year-old Jordyn, has Down Syndrome.
Before that episode had aired, Bell had described in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel about how his older daughter, 14-year-old Jasmyne, "loves being on the computer." But now she's off social media.
"That (Bell's wife is) ugly, fat, disgusting," Bell said when asked what were some of the negative comments he had seen on the Internet. "That my kids are not really good. They're ugly looking. They're not respectful. That I can't pitch because I don't have a beautiful wife. All those good things. Anything you can think of ... It was everywhere."
A search of the Internet revealed some negative words similar to what Bell described in comment sections following stories. There was an obscenity directed at Bell found on Twitter as well as some unkind tweets referring to the weight of the hefty Bell. But using hashtags, some Twitter searches don't go back as far as Aug. 22, when the last episode of "The Franchise" aired.
The eight-part series followed the Marlins behind the scenes during the season. The series originally was scheduled to conclude Aug. 29, but with the Marlins out of contention, the plug was pulled a week early.
It was the second straight year Showtime has followed a Major League Baseball team; last year's series focused on the San Francisco Giants. Bell said he might caution players on any team that is part of a future show such as this.
"They tried to create drama," Bell said. "If people ask me next year, whoever gets it, I'll say, ‘Dude, just watch your back.' ... I had old teammates and players around the league tell me that they're portraying you like a ... jerk, and we know you're not."
Bell said he did a lot of television work at California's Santiago Canyon College about how film can be edited. He believes Showtime edited some of his interviews to make him appear as a negative individual.
The reliever, who signed a three-year, $27 million contract as a marquee free agent during the offseason, got off to a brutal start and had an ERA over 9.00 at one point. Bell, whose ERA is now down to 5.25, eventually was removed from his closer role in favor of Steve Cishek.
Bell believes Showtime unfairly depicted tension between the pitcher and manager Ozzie Guillen.
"They tried to build some drama between me and Ozzie, and there wasn't any," said Bell, who did have one meeting with Guillen shown in which Guillen shows support while saying those in the front office don't feel the way he does.
Although he didn't offer specifics, Bell said Showtime used some things he said out of context.
"I remember some of the comments that I said (in April) weren't even about a certain situation that happened in June and they commented about it," said Bell, whose ballyhooed signing with the Marlins came after he had saved 132 games in the three previous seasons with San Diego. "And it was like, ‘That's not even part of what I talking about.' And they knew that."
Chris DeBlasio, senior director of communications for Showtime Sports, said the network would have no comment on anything Bell said.
Bell believed Showtime devoted too much of the series to his struggles while not making nearly as much mention about Marlins stars Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Reyes also getting off to tough starts.
"The funny thing is they never really talked about Giancarlo," Bell said. "He had a horrible April. They never talked about Jose the full season. He struggled (early). Jose had a great July and August. But nobody talked about him not hitting the way he should (early in the season) ... It was almost like they had to find some kind of drama and so they picked me."
The Franchise did acknowledge the difficult starts for Stanton and Reyes in one episode, although Bell's struggles were dealt with much more often and over several episodes. Bell didn't help matters in how he was depicted by being shown once in frustration kicking a bag of bats and throwing his glove against a wall and another time throwing a water bottle against a wall.
"At the beginning, I was like, ‘You can film whatever. It's OK. Because I'm that person. Go ahead,' " Bell said of the series, which aired began with a preview in April and then went on for seven consecutive Wednesdays beginning July 22.
As the series went on, Bell said he began to use more discretion about what he would allow to be filmed. Bell said he was displeased that for the last episode there was an attempt to coax him into saying certain things about Bell having problems with Guillen.
"At the end here, they tried to get me to say a bunch of things on camera," said Bell, who wouldn't name any individuals. "And they were leading me into saying some things, and I was like, ‘Dude, I'm not going to say that.' ‘But you guys did have problems.' I said, ‘No, we didn't.' The simple fact is he wanted to win. I wanted to win. I wasn't doing well. He was frustrated I wasn't doing well. I was frustrated I wasn't doing well. We were both frustrated we weren't winning and they portrayed it as we had like a conflict. They were trying to get drama."
Bell is shown in one of the more emotional segments of the series talking about his father, Jim Bell, who is suffering from cancer. Bell sheds tears during the interview.
Bell said he even read negative Internet comments about that.
"I teared up because it's an emotional thing, and I really care about my dad," Bell said. "But it's one of those things that there were some bad comments about that. Unfortunately, hey, a grown man was showing his feelings for his father, and I get ripped for it."
But now Bell and his family are off social media.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson