MLB to allow players to Tweet during Home Run Derby

Major League Baseball’s All-Star week is upon us once again and as usual I have mixed feelings about the event. I much preferred it when I was younger and not because of any nostalgia about players wanting it more but rather in those days I never saw American League players except in the playoffs and All-Star game.

Overall, games of this sort do not interest me that much because they do not really mean anything, home field advantage in the playoffs notwithstanding. The same goes for other sports — I have never made it past the first quarter of the NFL’s All-Pro game.

Complaints aside baseball continues to advance what happens for the game, and while many are aware of the home run derby (more on that in a second) there are a number of other baseball related events. Yesterday there was the All-Star Legends and Celebrity Softball game, which I somehow missed.

Today is of course the State Farm Home Run Derby, but MLB has added a new twist that should make it interesting to follow, at least online. Players will be allowed to use social media i.e. Twitter and Facebook, to comment on events live.

I think this is very interesting as some of the players already have large followings and often have very interesting things to say. Now it is sanctioned by MLB. Included in the lineup is David Ortiz (@davidortiz),Jose Bautista (@JoeyBats19) andMatt Kemp (@TheRealMattKemp), Heath Bell (@HeathBell21), Gio Gonzalez (@GioGonzalez47), Hunter Pence (@HunterPence9), Brandon Phillips (@DatDudeBP), Gaby Sanchez (@GabySanchez215), Justin Upton (@RealJustinUpton), C.J. Wilson (@str8edgeracer), Howie Kendrick (@HKendrick47) and Joel Hanrahan (@hanrahan4457).

In addition, but of less interest to me at least, is that there are now League captains with National League captain Prince Fielder choosing Matt Holliday, Matt Kemp and Rickie Weeks for his team, and American League captain David Ortiz choosing Jose Bautista, Robinson Cano and Adrian Gonzalez for his team. The two ‘leagues’ will face off against each other and there will be an individual overall winner as well from the contest.

Reds’ 2B Surges on Twitter, Asks for Extension

Picture of Brandon Phillips from his Twitter account

Brandon Phillips' photo from his @DatDudeBP Twitter account

He’s arrogant, famously calling the St. Louis Cardinals a bunch of “little bitches,” but Brandon Phillips is quickly establishing himself as Major League Baseball’s must-follow athlete on Twitter. Is it a tactic to get the Cincinnati Reds to grant him a rich extension, or trade him to a major market team that can pay him big coin?  

Phillips’ Twitter followers surging

Phillips’ followers surged from just over 50,000 to 65,000 in the three days ending June 19, after an story about the Cincinnati Reds second baseman’s use of Twitter to improve his image. Phillips tweets as @DatDudeBP, and is a Mobile Sports Report recommended athlete to follow.

Twitter as negotiating tactic? 

Favorable accounts of Phillips’ Twitter use comes at an auspicious time for the all-star second baseman. Days after the story broke, Phillips asked the Reds to negotiate a contract extension, according to an NBC Sports report.

Phillips told ESPN he will keep clubhouse talk off his Twitter account, but the timing of the ESPN story closely followed by a demand for a contract extension proves that he knows a large and favorable fan base will improve his chances of becoming one of baseball’s highest-paid athletes. Phillips has a $12 million team option for 2012, which ESPN said the Reds may not be able to pick up. Major League Baseball’s trading deadline is July 31.

Even if Phillips doesn’t start sending pay-me-or-trade-me tweets, the day is soon approaching when high-stakes contract negotiations become a part of an athlete’s online repertoire, and something fans will want to follow on smartphones and iPads.   

“The Ochocinco of baseball”

According to Phillips, Twitter is part of a more benign strategy. Twitter gives fans a chance to get to know him better, he told ESPN.

Phillips tweets occasional contests, which in the past have awarded fans spring training visits, dinner, and trips to San Francisco. According to ESPN, Phillips’ use of Twitter may have contributed to improved clubhouse maturity and leadership in 2011.

In addition to famously slurring the St. Louis Cardinals, which caused bench-clearing brawls the next time the two teams met, Phillips has been a controversial player in his seven-year major league career for failing to run out balls to first, laughing and joking when his team has trailed and other on-field lapses.

Phillips acknowledged that he’s after the celebrity athletes can get by being wired to their fans, including another famous Cincinnati pro.

“I want to be the Ochocinco of baseball,” Phillips told ESPN. Of course, Phillips was referring to the Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver who once threatened to be the first player to produce in-game tweets and has attracted greater than 2.13 million followers to his @ochocinco account.