GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Shortly after Brandon McCarthy reported to spring training with his new team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, he admitted to his 152,000 Twitter followers that he had a few first-day-of-school jitters.
“The first day at a new job is always scary, but thankfully I had a shower with my co-workers to look forward to and that took the edge off,” McCarthy tweeted.
The next day, the other capable, but injury-prone pitcher the Dodgers are relying on to solidify the back of their rotation, Brett Anderson, gave fans a little insight into the life of a major league baseball pitcher during the early, breezy days of spring training.
Anderson informed his 45,000 Twitter followers that he and McCarthy spent part of Sunday afternoon googling whether fish sleep.
“So, there’s your inside look at what happens during spring training,” Anderson wrote.
Dodgers fans, particularly the younger, social-media-obsessed demographic, figure to have two new entertaining follows this season after the Dodgers signed McCarthy and Anderson, who have reputations as two of the more clever, snarky and -- occasionally -- outrageous users of social media in baseball.
After Anderson’s fish tweet (and, by the way, fish don’t usually sleep, they just drift around a bit to rest), he spent the evening ranting about the Oscars. He tweeted that “Channing Tatum looks more fascinated by Legos than most children,” wondered if comedian Kevin Hart was shrinking, conjectured that Jared Leto had body odor and noted, “John Travolta is creeping Wes Anderson out.”
Some of that satire, Anderson realizes, could blow back on him. He’s not in Oakland or Arizona any more. Actually, he is in Arizona at the moment, but after the Dodgers break camp, he’ll be playing home games in the world’s culture capital.
“Being in L.A., there are so many famous people who throw out first pitches and stuff, there’s eventually going to be someone I’ve made fun of or had a sarcastic tweet about,” Anderson said. “I’ll be like, ‘Hey, nice to meet you, but please don’t look at my timeline.’"
It already happened once. Anderson had bashed Florida State quarterback Jameis Winson on Twitter relentlessly, then he showed up at a Super Bowl party at his agent’s offices. The first person he saw was Winston.
“I’m like, ‘Whoa, I’m going to make a hard right,’" Anderson said.
Major league teams don’t always love when their players are active on social media, particularly when those players jump the gun on announcements, use foul language or criticize the organization. For McCarthy and Anderson, it’s about the art of being provocative without provoking the wrong people. McCarthy rarely tweets about baseball and said he has a rule. If he would feel comfortable defending his tweet on TV, he’ll hit send. Otherwise, he deletes it.
“Social media allows athletes to build their brands, tell and control their story and it gives fans a lens into an athletes’ life that didn’t exist before,” said Josh Tucker, social media manager at the IMG agency. “It enables an even more powerful and meaningful connection between athlete and fan.”
Tucker, who used to be the social media director for the Dodgers, gave an example of the tangible benefits for athletes.
“If A.J. Ellis wants to get into broadcasting when he retires, he already has a built-in audience of 75,000 fans to tune in,” Tucker said.
There is, of course, the dark side of the social media question. Seattle Mariners outfielder/first baseman Logan Morrison has been embroiled in Twitter controversies throughout his career. His tweets got him in trouble with the Miami Marlins front office on several occasions. When he was sent to the minor leagues in 2011, many people believe it was because he was too active and too outspoken on Twitter.
With the Cleveland Indians organization in 2010, pitcher David Huff tweeted that he was about to be called up from Triple-A to make a spot start. When the Indians found out about it, they decided to use another pitcher. Huff, who is now in Dodgers camp vying for a spot in the bullpen, has said he never sent that tweet, that someone else got control of his account.
“I don’t know what happened. All I know is it cost me an opportunity,” Huff said.
It wasn’t just that one incident that sent Huff off social media.
“I’m done with Twitter. I don’t like giving fans an opportunity to just bash me. I don’t need it,” Huff said. “I like to live a positive life. If I had a bad outing, I would just get blown up.”
McCarthy finds the interaction with fans more fulfilling. He got on Twitter in 2011 at the behest of his wife Amanda, whose tweets are more outlandish than her husband’s. Often, the McCarthies, kept apart by major-league travel, banter back and forth via Twitter. On Friday, Amanda McCarthy tweeted to her husband, “Just because you are at work doesn’t mean you get to stop answering my text. NOW, SHOULD I WEAR A HAT TODAY OR NOT?!”
Twitter also gives athletes a direct conduit to fans, cutting out the middle men of print reporters and broadcast outlets. McCarthy was able to reassure his followers that he was OK and recovering after he had a seizure in 2013, the direct result of being hit in the head by a line drive the previous season.
“In that situation, it was a direct conduit to my own brain. It was finding out, ‘Does my brain still work?’ That was something I realized when I was regaining consciousness, my brain just kept filling up with sarcastic, stupid thoughts,” McCarthy said. “I was like, ‘All right, eventually one of these has to go out.’ I used that as a way to see if this was still me. It also updated people that I’m alive and I’m not drooling on myself.”