Are Social Media Changing How Athletes Get Traded?

Players—and fans—are starting to learn about impending trades before they're official.

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Michael Dwyer / AP

Boston Red Sox's Kevin Youkilis raises his arms to the crowd as he comes off the field after hitting a triple and being replaced with a pinch-runner in the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves in Boston, Sunday, June 24, 2012.

The Red Sox traded their popular third baseman, Kevin Youkilis, earlier this week. He had been fighting injuries and declining performance after being a key cog in bringing a couple of World Series titles to Boston. Unlike most trades, he knew it was coming—and so did his fans. Advance word had gotten out and spread through social media. As a result, his fans gave him a standing ovation at his last game.

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Certainly organizations have a right to be discreet when trading a player, but today’s social media means that the old-fashioned totally-under-wraps trade is becoming a thing of the past. In this case, the tweets allowed Boston fans to get a heads up that Youkilis was heading out the door, even before it was official. They could actually give him his due, pay their respects and thank him for his services. He got his curtain call. He may have even had time to pop some champagne and tour the city one last time, if he felt like it.

When I was traded, I didn’t have time to pop anything except my jaw back in place. I was traded in 2003 from the Texas Rangers to the Chicago Cubs. I got a call from then Rangers general manager John Hart, and all I could do was focus on getting out of town. By the time I got over to the stadium to say goodbye to my teammates and coaches, all my equipment was packed away in a box. My locker was cleared out. No fans were waiting to bid me adieu. I was yesterday.

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Today’s speed of information benefits the professional athlete. A player can give a heads-up to his family, get dinner with soon-to-be-former teammates, seek a final thought and conversation with a coach or trainer that nursed him back to health. He may not be happy about the move or the fans who wanted him out of town, but in the end, it’s a more humane way to treat a player. Thanks to social media, he will no longer be alone, sitting in the dark in that moment.