Major League Baseball releases its social media policy — and it’s pretty good

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Part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement reached last November was the implementation of a social media policy for players. They didn’t come up with one, actually, but they said they were going to.  Now they have, and it was just forwarded to me.

It’s in two parts, one for major leaguers and one for minor leaguers. It was accompanied by an explanatory memo.  Here are some highlights, starting with the memo to all players on 40-man rosters, which starts out in a surprisingly refreshing way:

While having a Social Media policy is important to protecting the interests of everyone involved in promoting the game, we hope that you will not view this policy as a blanket deterrent to engaging in social media. MLB recognizes the importance of social media as an important way for players to communicate directly with fans. We encourage you to connect with fans through Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms. Along with MLB’s extensive social media activities, we hope that your efforts on social media will help bring fans closer to the game and have them engaged with baseball, your club and you in a meaningful way.

Given the trend in the NFL and especially in college sports of teams and coaches strongly discouraging the use of social media and even banning it in some instances, this is pretty spiffy.  The memo goes on to tell players that they should use social media to interact with fans and to work on charity and promotional stuff.

The memo goes on to tell players (a) that just because you’re using your smart phone doesn’t mean that what you say on social media is private; and (b) to think before you tweet or post or whatever, because a statement on social media is no different than something said in a press conference.

This is simple yet essential and I’ve been saying it for years. Almost all of the hand-wringing about social media out there is based on it being new and different and scary and oh my stars and garters.  It’s not. Think of the Internet or your smart phone as a big microphone placed in the middle of town square and everything you say into it is heard by everyone.  It’s that simple, and I’m glad to see MLB and the MLBPA recognizing this rather than demonizing an entire swatch of human interaction simply because it’s new.

The policy itself is more of a legal document, but it basically consists of a list of ten prohibitions:

  • Players can’t make what can be construed as official club or league statements without permission;
  • Players can’t use copyrighted team logos and stuff without permission or tweet confidential or private information about teams or players, their families, etc.;
  • Players can’t link to any MLB website or platform from social media without permission;
  • No tweets condoning or appearing to condone the use of substances on the MLB banned drug list (which is everything but booze, right?);
  • No ripping umpires or questioning their integrity;
  • No racial, sexist, homophobic, anti-religious, etc. etc. content;
  • No harassment or threats of violence;
  • Nothing sexually explicit;
  • Nothing otherwise illegal.

That’s it.  Not terribly restrictive, especially considering that many employers’ rules about this sort of thing are way more harsh.  I don’t get the prohibition against linking MLB sites — note: you’re gonna want them to do this, MLB; it will be good for you — but everything else makes sense.

Also note: no ban about ripping the media. So that should be fun.

Finally, there is an enforcement clause saying that anyone who violates these rules is subject to discipline from the commissioner. Which, yeah, of course.

I’m guessing that social media experts who think more about this kind of thing than I do will find some fault or weirdness here. But to my two eyes — two eyes that read an awful lot of social media each day — this seems like a totally reasonable and smart policy.

And one which, in its encouragement of players to use social media is downright refreshing.

Angels’ Andrelton Simmons opts out of final 5 games

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Shortstop Andrelton Simmons has opted out of the remainder of the Los Angeles Angels’ season.

The Angels announced the four-time Gold Glove-winning shortstop’s decision Tuesday before they faced the San Diego Padres.

Los Angeles (24-31) is still technically in the playoff race with five games left in the regular season, and Simmons clearly caught the Angels by surprise, although the club said it respected his decision.

The 31-year-old Simmons, who can be a free agent this winter, is finishing his fifth year with the Angels. After spraining his ankle in late July and missing 22 games, Simmons is currently batting .297 with 10 RBIs while playing his usual stellar defense, albeit with four errors in 30 games.

“At this time, I feel this is the best decision for me and my family,” Simmons said in a statement. “We don’t know what the future holds, but we would like to sincerely thank the Angels organization and Angels fans for welcoming and making us feel at home.”

Manager Joe Maddon acknowledged he was caught by surprise when general manager Billy Eppler told him about Simmons’ decision Monday night after Simmons went 1 for 4 with an RBI single in the Angels’ home finale. Maddon texted Simmons, but hadn’t heard back by Tuesday afternoon.

“I’ve really enjoyed this guy a lot,” Maddon said. “I’m a big fan. This guy is a good baseball player, and I’ve enjoyed the conversations, too. It’s just unfortunate. He’s really a big part of what we’re doing right now.”

Simmons is a favorite of Angels fans for his defensive wizardry, and owner Arte Moreno has described Simmons as perhaps his favorite player to watch on the roster. Simmons has batted .281 with 36 homers and 281 RBIs during his five seasons with Los Angeles, and he won the Gold Glove in 2017 and 2018.

“He’s a thinking kind of a player, and I’ve enjoyed him a lot,” Maddon said.

Simmons will be a free agent this winter, and the Angels have an obvious replacement for him in David Fletcher, who has a .374 on-base percentage while regularly hitting leadoff for the Angels during his breakout major league season. Fletcher has been playing second base since Simmons’ return from injury.

But the Angels haven’t publicly closed the door on Simmons’ return, and he could be given a qualifying offer. Maddon has repeatedly said he would like Simmons to return in 2021 if possible.

The Angels haven’t had a winning season during Simmons’ five years in Anaheim, although Simmons said last week he wasn’t discouraged by the lack of team success. Simmons played his first four major league seasons in Atlanta, and he hasn’t appeared in the postseason since 2013.

Simmons also said he hadn’t been involved in any recent contract talks with the Angels, but he had enjoyed playing for the club. When asked if he wanted to return to the Halos, Simmons said he would have to “plead the fifth.”