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How to use Twitter properly to enhance your baseball experience

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Moshe Mandel had a great post over at The Yankee Analysts yesterday. It’s about Twitter, and he keys on the biggest thing that keeps a lot of baseball fans off it: they misunderstand the point of it all.

As an example, Moshe links to a Time Magazine list of the allegedly most important Twitter accounts for sports fans to follow. With the exception of the first name listed — Old Hoss Radbourn, which is a feed in which one of the more clever people I’ve ever encountered pretends to be the long dead 19th century ace — they’re athletes or celebrities. The thing is, however, if you get on Twitter to follow athletes and celebrities, you’re missing out on everything it has to offer.  As Moshe notes:

Most people see Twitter as a one way street, a tool to follow celebrities, funny people, and Eric Stangel without much interaction. To them, Twitter serves as an RSS feed to the thoughts of the interesting elite, which is why it may seem vapid to spend a lot of time using it. Whenever I tell people that I frequently utilize Twitter, they roll their eyes and ask me some variation of “Why do you care about Celebrity X’s dinner”?

But Twitter has the capability to be so much more, and for many of us it has become an invaluable implement in the sports fan toolbox. It has much greater utility as a social networking device than it does as a celebrity follower, and no greater example can be found in the sports world, where media members, bloggers, and fans have come together to build a vibrant network for discussion and debate about sports.

Though it’s sometimes a wise-cracking vehicle for me, I mostly use Twitter for following baseball. And the key people I follow in Twitter are not athletes.  Rather, they fall into two broad categories: (1) baseball media people who break news; and (2) passionate baseball fans.  The first group are self-explanatory. I want to talk for a minute about the second group. And yes, if you’re already a Twitter addict this is not going to be useful for you. I’m talking primarily here to the people who haven’t yet felt compelled to join up and start tweeting or, at the very least, lurking.

Moshe himself fits the latter description. Sure, he has a blog to promote, but like most bloggers on Twitter, the utility of following him is not to get his latest links. He’s a big time Yankees fan and brings analysis, humor, questions and emotion about his Yankees that enrich the way I think of the team. So do a bunch of other hardcore Yankees fans I know.  And Phillies fans. And Mets fans. And Reds fans. And Brewers fans. And Giants fans. And Red Sox fans and fans of every other team.  They’re just people, ya know, ranging from college students to working stiffs with whom I converse every day and — as soon as the games get going tomorrow — most evenings.

As games are going on, the baseball Twitter people are pointing out stuff that I, as a non-fan of their teams, wouldn’t immediately see.  They’re raising questions and answering them.  They key is the casualness to it and the interactivity.  You’re not reading news or blog posts or stuff like that. You’re having a true conversation with people like you would at a bar or in your living room or something.  Except you can leave abruptly without having to pardon yourself.

As we get going on the 2011 baseball season, I’d encourage those of you who haven’t yet jumped on board the Twitter train to give it a whirl. For baseball purposes, I’d recommend that you first follow the HardballTalk people (Me, Aaron, D.J., Drew, Bob and Matthew). Then take a look at the feeds of the people I’m following. These aren’t all friends (I haven’t met most of them and, indeed, I fight with some of them) and they’re not all G-rated, but most of them bring a constant stream of news, analysis, insight, humor, pathos and plain fun to following baseball. Pick a handful and watch the conversations for a while.

Then just butt in. As long as you’re polite, you’ll be a welcome part of the larger baseball conversation. And your baseball consumption will be much more nutritious as a result.

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.