Although the theme of this project is the future, the world of baseball journalism is already changing significantly as a result of digital disruption. Social media sites, especially Twitter, has changed baseball coverage into a twenty-four hour business. ESPN baseball writer and broadcaster Buster Olney says that covering the sport is “a 24-hour cycle, it feels like it never turns off.” Indeed this is the sentiment repeated by many in the business, who are more than ever required to be at the ready to file a story, no matter the hour. Reporter Ken Rosenthal also says that he checks his phone “every waking minute” for Twitter updates and texts. This increased connectivity has transformed the landscape of baseball coverage, which used to be reliant on print and television coverage, which were often not up-to-date twenty-four hours a day. This atmosphere can be both good and bad for the quality of reporting. Information regarding transactions is usually released almost the instant it is confirmed by a source from a team. However, there have been a lot of false reports coming out because of the haste to get the scoop on a blockbuster trade first. Twitter is also very limiting for reporters, as the 140-character limit makes it difficult to fully convey the story. The is an option, though, to link to a longer article, so speed can still be achieved without forcing journalists to use extreme brevity.
A new and interesting trend in baseball reporting is also the direct result of Twitter. More and more often, stories about big trades or other transactions between teams are being broken by teenage Twitter users. A recent free-agent signing, which brought superstar shortstop Hanley Ramirez to the Boston Red Sox, was revealed very early by a high-school freshman from Missouri named Jake Wesley. According to Wesley, he has a source within the Red Sox organization who gave him the information earlier than more established reporters. However, his tweet was met with extreme skepticism by others until the story was confirmed by the club. This type of reporting, using relatively unknown young people to leak information, is unique to the era of social media that we live in. Previously, one would have to be a well-established journalist in order to have the connections necessary to break stories of this nature, but the universality of sites like Twitter allow regular people to participate in the sport’s journalistic landscape.
The journalists are not the only ones affected by the rise of social media however. Former pitcher and current author Dirk Hayhurst wrote a very interesting piece about his experiences with Twitter at the trade deadline. The trade deadline in baseball is July 31st and all trades must be completed before a certain time that day. Hayhurst recalls teammate and future hall-of-fame pitcher Roy Halladay being subject to conastant trade rumors during the 2009 season. Twitter was just rising in popularity that year and it made Halladay’s life especially difficult. Someone even made a fake account using Halladay’s name to report a trade that didn’t actually occur. Many players experience similar issues today due to the popularity of Twitter as a method of breaking baseball news. It used to be that players would learn that they were being traded or otherwise acquired by another team through their manager or through the team’s front office. Nowadays, the players often learn of these events by receiving a text from a friend or family member or on a social media site. In these ways, digital disruption can make the life of a player more stressful.
A very recent example of how digital disruption can affect the lives of players in major ways is in the above video. Popular outfielder Austin Jackson played with the Tigers until he was traded to the Seattle Mariners on July 31st, 2014. However, the game that day was being played during the day, which is the time when most of the deals were physically taking place. Jackson was officially traded in the seventh inning. Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski texted Manager Brad Ausmus to remove Jackson from the game, as he was technically the property of another team. The result is what you can see in the video. Jackson was replaced by teammate Rajai Davis in the outfield, and he left to a standing ovation. This occurrence could never have happened without digital technology allowing for high-speed communication between teams and even within the same team. Before, the player (and manager) would need to be told in person and the process would take much longer. However, the constant worry about being traded leads many players to experience more stress because they are checking social media constantly in order to determine their status on their team.
Overall, the world of baseball reporting is changing rapidly, but I believe that for many journalists, the future has already arrived. Social media and new communication technology has made writing about baseball a twenty-four hour job, and has moved the power from well-established journalists into the hands of Twitter users who may not even be professional reporters. The lives of players have also changed due to the new technologies. Players now tend to find out about being traded from their smartphones while at home, in the dugout, or even on the field. The future truly is now for baseball-related media.