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Matt Garza tirade illustrates perils of professional athletes on Twitter

By Matt Snyder | Baseball Writer

Matt Garza is angry at Eric Sogard for bunting home a run in a close game.
Matt Garza is angry at Eric Sogard for bunting home a run in a close game. (USATSI)

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Saturday, Rangers starter Matt Garza made a fool of himself. Yes, that's my personal opinion, but let us examine the bare bones of what happened:

1. Garza was angry that an opposing player successfully dropped down a squeeze. The A's were already leading, but it wasn't a blowout. I can't on any level fathom why it's not OK for a bunt in this situation.

2. Garza went nuts on Twitter later, going after Eric Sogard and his wife.

Now, let's put aside any personals feelings about this specific spat and totally drop biases here. There's no need to get into a thing where Garza fans defend him and others pile on with hate and name-calling. Let us think about athletes in general being on Twitter.

I have a simple question: Is it worth it?

Think about the comparitive upside vs. downside.

As far as I can tell, the upside is the positive interaction with fans. And some are great at it. Brandon Phillips, for example, does it the right way. There are a few others, such as the always-excellent Brandon McCarthy. I could see an argument where some players like to clarify quotes from time to time, in case something is taken out of context. That, however, very rarely happens. Mostly they use Twitter for interaction.

And for the most part, very little good comes from it.

I would never, ever suggest any sort of rule forbidding it. I'm all about freedom. If I were a player, however, about the last thing I would do is get on Twitter because of the immense downside. Here are some of the ways it could be negative:

1. Mentions. For those unfamiliar with Twitter, your mentions are when someone tweets something including your Twitter handle. You have a "mention" column in whatever Twitter vehicle you use. If someone wants to personally attack you, they can. Sam LeCure of the Reds this past week, for example, tweeted out a user name of some anonymous loser who does nothing but threaten to kill baseball players. By name. Seriously. Even if you ignore that noise, it's an unnecessary annoyance. Some players -- such as Chris Perez -- erased their accounts due to relentless name-calling attacks by fans.

2. Context. No matter the walk of life, limiting our thoughts to only 140 characters at a time leaves someone open to be taken out of context not only in terms of the intended interpretation of their words, but also -- and probably more importantly -- in tone. We often joke about not having a "sarcasm font," but it's true. And professional athletes are under far more spotlight and scrutiny than the rest of us.

3. Spur of the moment tweets. Garza's emotions got the best of him Saturday. There was no reason to engage in a Twitter war with either of the Sogards. Again, put aside any feelings on the matter in terms of fan bases. Just stop for a second and think: What possible good comes from Twitter-attacking an opposing player and his wife. What's the upside? What is there to gain? I see very little, if anything at all.

4. Intolerance. No different than society, I'm certain that some professional athletes are racist. I'm certain that some are intolerant of, let's say, homosexuality. And sometimes they tweet things out that expose this. Let's avoid some sort of PC argument here and just agree that not tweeting anything that might offend some people is always better than tweeting it for a pro athlete. They aren't political commentators and you always risk offending a certain percentage of your fans when dipping into that world.

5. Not keeping it "in house." Whatever happened to allowing drama to stay behind closed doors? That's a good way to avoid drama. Any issues, in my opinion, should be kept behind the scenes. Why can't Garza approach Sogard in the hallway before Sunday's game, for example, and have an adult conversation? Why go nuts over social media?

To reiterate, I'm not for any rule regarding social media use and I'm only using Garza's situation as an example. Stuff like this is becoming more and more common. And it shouldn't. If a young player asked me personally if I thought he should be on Twitter, I'd tell him to emulate Derek Jeter.

"No," Jeter deadpanned when asked if he was going to join Twitter or Facebook at the 2011 All-Star Game media day. I couldn't help but laugh when the person who asked the question followed up by asking why.

"I'm private, buddy," Jeter replied with a smile.

That's how you avoid the negative attention that Garza brought upon himself last night. Go home and stew about it. Complain to family and friends. But going nuts on Twitter?

I fail to see the upside from any point of view. Keep the issues private.

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