Since when is a servant in a public-relations office, if not an intern in the popcorn-popping department, entering a purpose-pitch fray between warring baseball teams? It’s crazy enough when purportedly grown men — at a time when sports is paying careful attention to the fragility of the human skull — throw lethal retaliatory weapons near or at heads.
Now we have two competing Twitter twits, representing the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals, firing 140-or-fewer character missiles at each other after Nationals star Bryce Harper was plunked in the leg by Julio Teheran. Seems the Braves were mad because the rascally Harper — known to incite the enemy and invent phrases such as “That’s a clown question, bro” — earlier had taken 23.66 seconds to round the bases after a monster home run, this according to something called TaterTotTracker. Babe Ruth didn’t take that long in the slow-motion reels.
Shortly after Harper responded with a flurry of expletives and threats toward Teheran, prompting both benches to empty, the Braves’ official Twitter feed countered with its own brushback pitch: “Clown move bro.”
Which was followed by a tweet on the Nationals’ official feed: “Which part, giving up the home run, or drilling the 20-year-old on the first pitch his next time up?”
The crossfire caused Braves general manager Frank Wren to execute a major-league first: an apology for an in-game tweet. “It doesn’t reflect how we feel, how we want to do business or who we are,” said Wren, not revealing the author. “It was an inappropriate attempt at humor. And I think you shouldn’t ever be directing anything — unless it’s positive or uplifting — at another team or an opponent. I think that’s kind of plain and simple.” The Nationals did not apologize.
Is it possible the tweets came from the dugouts? If pitchers can drink beer and eat fried chicken in the clubhouse during games, as we saw in Boston two seasons ago, can’t players sneak in messages via iPhones? The Braves traditionally are too professional for that behavior, but if so, sports has a new way of exacerbating on-field tensions without using post-game media interviews. Do we really want to see players scanning dueling Tweets during games to see if counterattacks are necessary?
Clown question, bro.