Twitter Transforms Fans' Relationships with Players

Cleveland Indians MLB.com beat writer Jordan Bastian has a unique way of ranking players within the organization. His “Power Rankings” have nothing to do with on-field performance of individual players. No, a player earns his keep atop Bastian’s rankings through clever and humorous banter in 140 characters or less.

Yes, I’m talking about Twitter. Our national pastime is being reshaped by the new culture of social media. Gaining access into the recesses of a player’s mind and personal life was once reserved for prominent members of the media with the right credentials, and even then a player was cautious of what he might reveal to the world. With the rise of Twitter, things have changed. The details of the lives of the players who have opted to join the movement are on display for the world to read. You might see a picture of what Joe Smith had for lunch had for lunch or broaden your music pallet with Chris Perez‘s song of the day.

Social media is bringing us closer to the game than ever before. Fans can interact with players and hope to have them acknowledge their comments in response. What I think is most incredible is that all of a sudden, the players seem more human. They seem less like novelties and more like us when they tweet things that the average fan can relate to.

During the season, players will often tweet their reaction to the game that day. It’s almost like gaining access to the clubhouse when the players interact with one another and joke around, giving the fans the opportunity to join in. The “Bullpen Mafia” nickname for the group of relievers that forged a strong bond last year came about through Twitter, when a fan suggested that the group was like their own mafia.

A good portion of the Indians roster can be found on Twitter, including the Bullpen Mafia in its entirety (though don’t expect to see Rafael Perez cracking jokes anytime soon—he has a total of zero tweets), minor league players and front office personnel. Some players are more avid tweeters than others, which is where Bastian’s rankings come into play. His rankings began as an offseason project, in which he ranked the players based on the entertainment value of their tweets over the course of the previous week. Due to the start of Spring Training and a more hectic schedule, the rankings have become bi-weekly.

In the most recent update of the rankings, which came on March 21, Vinnie Pestano (@VinnieP52) and Jason Kipnis (@TheJK_Kid) reigned supreme after their appearance in a video from FOX8, showing what the two teammates and roommates do off the field. It’s personal looks into the lives of players like the one in the video through which fans are truly able to get to know the players they root for.

Twitter is instrumental in giving fans the opportunity to see the personality behind the name on the back of the jersey. We can learn more about the players we love. We can see what they have to say about current issues in he news or sports world. Many of the players have recently given their take on the NCAA March Madness Tournament. Some of the players who routinely impress Bastian and find themselves ranked include Kipnis, Pestano, Smith, Perez, Shelley Duncan@shelldunc), and Lou Marson (@Lou Mar6). Bastian also ranks minor leaguers, among whom Cole Cook (@C_M_Cook), Thomas Neal (@TdaddyNeal), Nick Bartolone (@NickBartolone), and LeVon Washington (@L_Wash) have made strong impressions.

Beyond that, Twitter has altered the game in the way news about the team is distributed. Lineups are posted before games through Twitter, as well as updates from the team account and beat writers throughout the game. Breaking news about an injury, trade and other important information often hits Twitter before a full-length story can be published for most media outlets.

Twitter is changing the baseball world as we know it. Never before have we been able to form such personal relationships with the players that we see on the field. They’re not so distant anymore. They’re more like us, and with a few keystrokes and the click of a button, all of a sudden we can become part of their world.

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