How Twitter Is Ruining Spring Training

If journalism -- as an old saying goes -- is the first draft of history, then what is Twitter? Scrunched-up sticky notes left on a wall somewhere?

Don't get me wrong. This isn't a "get off my lawn" post. I like Twitter (unlike some here). I'm on Twitter, and if you follow my tweets, you know that most of them wind up either being information on when BCB posts are up, or retweets of informational bits thrown out by the various beat reporters with news about the Cubs.

And the latter is where spring training is getting ruined. (This is going to be a lot longer than 140 characters, for you Twitter aficionados.)

There's nothing you're getting through the tweets of Carrie Muskat, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Sun-Times, and others, that they wouldn't have written about in previous spring trainings.

The difference is the 24/7, in-your-face nature of Twitter. When Gordo tweeted about Ryan Theriot being hit on the hand by Rafael Dolis last week, all of a sudden the blogosphere was worried! And Gordo's tweet asked "Castro ready?", as if a HBP in BP in February would put Theriot out for the season. (I suppose some naysayers were thinking, "Hope so!") And when he tweeted about Angel Guzman being "shut down" for some minor shoulder discomfort, that resulted in this 80-comment BCB FanShot practically begging Jim Hendry to sign Kiko Calero. OK, not "practically" begging -- actually begging, even though Calero may have the same kind of shoulder issues that Guzman might.

Or might not -- as Gordo wrote in this Sun-Times article the day after that tweet:

The Cubs' medical staff seems optimistic that the shoulder won't cost Guzman more than a few days, and that should allow the staff's best reliever of 2009 to open the season on time.

"He's not seeing a doctor or anything like that," said general manager Jim Hendry, who called it a precautionary move.

Further, this Muskat tweet on Sunday made it sound like the whole thing was overblown:

#cubs Angel Guzman threw 25-30 pitches from 45 feet to test his right shoulder and said he felt good. He'll throw again Monday

But when Carrie tweeted on Friday about Ted Lilly's fever that set him back a few days, panicked BCB'ers posted this FanShot titled "It's not even March, and the Cubs are already dropping like flies" and even suggested by FanPost that the Cubs should sign 43-year-old John Smoltz because of some perceived issue in the starting rotation.

Look -- Twitter is definitely a useful tool to get news about our favorite team, and in fact, that's one of the purposes of this site, to consolidate all that information in one place. Some tweets, like this one from Carrie Muskat that I retweeted yesterday, are useful information:

Randy Wells will start #cubs Cactus League opener Thursday vs #athletics at HoHoKam, and be followed by Marshall, Mathes, Parisi and Caridad

But do I really need to know that Ozzie Guillen had two GPS stolen from his garage in Glendale, Arizona? In general, I believe the relentless, breathless nature of Twitter is spoiling one of the best things about spring training:

Optimism.

All of you know that I am optimistic by nature. That doesn't mean I don't understand and accept the flaws that are part of the 2010 Cubs. Is this a juggernaut team that will blow through the National League during the regular season? No, it's not, and the last time that happened, two years ago, it came to a screeching halt as soon as the calendar turned to October.

I do, however, think Jim Hendry has made some positive moves to correct the mistakes he made last offseason. And spring training -- especially before a single game has been played -- should be a time of hope and renewal, especially since those of us who live in the Midwest and Northeast have been under a constant dump of snow that only now, as March begins, may begin to melt. We need to feel like this baseball season is something to enjoy, not to sit at our computers and smartphones for the latest tweet signaling disaster for the Cubs. If Ted Lilly is under the weather 36 days before Opening Day, it does NOT mean the Cubs have to rush out and sign Pedro Martinez or Braden Looper, or if Angel Guzman has a shoulder owie that won't even cause a doctor to look at it, to rush to trade for Jason Frasor or Luke Gregerson, when they might have the solutions to the latter issue (bullpen depth) right in camp.

So relax a little. All is not yet lost. Twitter is a good thing -- when used and viewed properly. It's nice to get information on a several-times-a-day basis (example: this Carrie Muskat tweet from yesterday talking about rain interrupting scheduled drills.) But don't let a 140-character message destroy what we should be enjoying at this time of year: the return of baseball, spring, hope and optimism.

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