Out of Bounds

Baseball fans have reason to be excited, and not because it's the start of spring training, where even Washington Nationals fans still have hope for the upcoming season.

The reason for the excitement is the news that controversial and outspoken Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen has started his very own Twitter account.

In only six years as manager, Guillen has managed to get into hot water with almost everyone involved in Major League Baseball. As someone who does not take criticism well, he has gotten into public arguments with umpires, opposing players, his own players, other team's managers and even his own boss.

The league even ordered him to go to sensitivity training after he used a homosexual slur to describe Chicago Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti. He also called out pitcher Javier Vazquez even before starting him in the first game of a crucial three-game series in September and dished out explicative-laced tirades against Cubs pitcher Rich Hill and Chicago radio host Mike North.

So the question for baseball fans is not if, but when Guillen will make his first Twitter tirade and whom he will bash? This is the reason he already has 30,000 followers on his account. So far, Guillen has only tweeted about how bad he is at golf and joked that MLB network analyst Harold Reynolds is unable to have a Twitter account because nobody will follow him.

Still no classic Guillen, but what will he do after the White Sox bullpen blows a game or somebody is unable to put down a successful sacrifice bunt? Remember, this is the same guy who sent pitcher Sean Tracey back down to Triple-A after he was unable to hit Hank Blalock with a pitch.

A more intriguing question for the White Sox front office and MLB is whether or not to allow Guillen to use Twitter. White Sox general manager Kenny Williams was upset Guillen opened an account and was worried his focus would not be on baseball. The two spoke about the issue and Guillen told him he just wanted to have fun.

Unlike other professional athletic leagues, the MLB does not currently have a policy on Twitter or other social networking sites. The National Basketball Association prohibits players from using Twitter from 45 minutes before the start of a game to after they have finished all post-game responsibilities. This includes halftime and applies not only to players, but coaches and other team personnel.

The National Football League adopted a similar rule after Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco threatened to tweet during games. Regardless, I do not think we will see Guillen sending out tweets in the middle of the fourth inning.

The fact that professional sports leagues like the NBA and NFL have instituted policies regarding Twitter and other social media only proves that the influence of these sites has extended too far into the game. The MLB didn't even create a reasonable policy on steroids and other performance enhancing drugs until far after their influence had changed the entire game. Does the NBA really think that Dwayne Wade or LeBron James will pull out their cell phones on the bench and tweet about how they dunked on somebody if they don't make a rule about it?

But the real question is why athletes feel the need to have a Twitter in the first place. Yes, I know they are just exercising their right to free speech in a new, more interesting fashion, but is there anything an athlete posts that they are unable to say in front of a microphone? Athletes and coaches are constantly surrounded by members of the media armed with tape recorders and microphones from the moment they enter the stadium for a game until the moment they leave yet this is not enough for some attention-hungry athletes and coaches.

Although many people, especially the White Sox, rightfully have concerns over what Guillen posts on Twitter, it is necessary to point out that most athletes use Twitter without sparking any controversy. Not all athletes use Twitter for attention as Chad Ochocinco and Darrelle Revis did prior to their final game of the NFL season.

Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon has a Twitter account and tweets every few days without bringing negative attention to himself. If Guillen can do something similar to Maddon, there will not be an issue. But as soon as he brings his profanity-laced tirades to Twitter, then MLB or the White Sox will have to step in.

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