Outspoken Phillips’ plans to tweet worries Baker

Published 3:04 am Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Associated Press

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Brandon Phillips has taken to tweeting. His manager’s reaction? A shudder.

Urged on by Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco, the outspoken Reds second baseman began tweeting shortly before spring training began. So far, he’s limited his tweets to personal musings, posting photos and holding contests for fans to win a trip to Arizona.

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So far, no problem.

What happens if he has a strong opinion about, say, the St. Louis Cardinals? That could get some folks all atwitter.

“If something comes up again, I’m just being me, that’s how I look at it,” Phillips said Sunday. “I’m not going to disrespect anybody. That’s just me. I’m going to say what I say. And if people don’t like it, then don’t listen. That’s how I feel.”

Last year, Phillips sparked a brawl with the Cardinals by using a derogatory term to dub them complainers. Manager Dusty Baker talked to him afterward about watching what he says. Phillips was careful the rest of the way as the Reds overtook the Cardinals to win the NL Central.

Now, Phillips has a new outlet for his opinions. And Baker can only hope he’ll be careful not to cross the line in 140 characters or less.

“He already has,” Baker said, referring to Phillips’ verbal dustup with the Cardinals last season. “That’s all I can tell you. You can’t necessarily prohibit it, can you? You’ve got to be really careful because you’re kind of setting yourself up for more controversy.”

Baseball players don’t tweet nearly as much as athletes in other sports. Twitter trash talk is commonplace in the NFL. Baseball’s culture is far different, with protocols on behavior.

“It’s just a different dynamic,” pitcher Bronson Arroyo said. “It’s not such a one-on-one game and not an in-your-face game.”

Phillips got turned on to Twitter by one of the NFL’s social-media and trash-talking giants. Ochocinco has 1.7 million followers on Twitter, where he provides regular updates and stirs things up. In the offseason, he told Phillips he should do the same.

“Actually, Ocho put me on there,” Phillips said. “That’s the only reason I got on there. He said, ’Hey, man, you’re like the Ocho of baseball. You need to get your face out there and let the fans know who you are.’ He said, ’You’re too good of a player to try to be private with your life. You shouldn’t be low-keying it.”’

Phillips tried it and immediately liked it, posting under the name (at)DatDudeBP.

“I’m not into the computers and stuff,” Phillips said. “But now I am. I’ve got an iPhone now and I’ve got an iPad. Everything with ’i’ in it, I’ve got it.”

In three weeks, he has amassed more than 9,000 followers. He’s held two contests, asking followers to guess his childhood nickname (Spud) and his favorite drink (milk). A Reds fan from northern Kentucky who correctly guessed the drink won a trip to Arizona on Phillips’ tab.

“I’m enjoying it and having a good time doing it,” Phillips said. “When I have time, I just pick up the computer and start tweeting things that are on my mind. Giving back to the fans — it’s nice.”

Phillips said he won’t hesitate to say something that fans or other players might dislike.

“If they ain’t talking about you, if you don’t have haters, then you ain’t doing nothing. That’s just how I look at it,” he said. “You have to have haters in this game. If you don’t have haters, then you’re not out there producing.”

Only a handful of Reds players tweet, and Phillips does it far more often than any others.

“I just hope that it’s not too time-consuming and distracting from what he has to do,” Baker said.

The NFL had to crack down on players using social media, setting limits on when players can tweet and post to sites. Ochocinco was fined $25,000 for tweeting during a preseason game. Nothing like that has happened in Major League Baseball yet.

“We’ve never really had any baseball players having any controversy or anything involved with Twitter,” Arroyo said. “We play 162 games. They’ve got a little more downtime.”

Arroyo’s main hobby is music, not connecting through social media.

“I don’t have anything,” he said. “I don’t even know how to get on Facebook, man. I would say when (Pearl Jam’s) Eddie Vedder gets a Twitter page, then I’ll think about it.”