Everybody loves a good Twitter throwdown. I thought we might be in for one on Thursday afternoon when Colorado Rockies reliever Mike Ekstrom, who spent a little over a month in the big leagues before his demotion to Triple-A on Aug. 18, seemed to respond unfavorably to a tweet from the Denver Post's Troy Renck, who has covered the Rockies beat for a significant portion of their roller coaster existence.
But before we get too deep here, we'll take you back to where the awkward exchange stems from.
On July 19, Ekstrom received a short letter from the senior vice president of standards and on-field operations for Major League Baseball, Mr. Joseph Garagiola Jr., warning him about two separate incidences in which he failed to complete his warmup pitches within the allotted 2:25 following a pitching change. In both cases, Ekstrom went well past the time constraints, and ultimately delayed the game by close to one full minute.
Crazy stuff, I know. If you want, you can read more details and actual letter over at Baseball Prospectus.
I'm not sure how often Major League Baseball sends these letters out, but I can't imagine Ekstrom is the only pitcher guilty of such actions. Then again, the others may not have delayed the game quite as long as he did, but it really didn't seem like all that interesting a development unless you needed some visual confirmation that MLB is indeed making efforts to speed up the game.
With that explained, now we go back to the exchange.
While answering questions on Twitter during the Rockies' 5-2 win over the New York Mets on Wednesday night, Renck, who often jokes — along with everyone else — about the deliberate pace of Rockies closer Rafael Betancourt, was asked if he'd ever seen a pitcher work slower than Betancourt. Renck threw out some of the more obvious names, such as Steve Trachsel and Josh Beckett, and at the end he also mentioned Ekstrom.
Now, if you follow Renck on Twitter, you know he answers a lot of silly, repetitive questions throughout the course of the oftentimes challenging-to-watch Rockies games. By their usual standards this was among the least silly questions he'll see in a given night, but regardless of the quality, he always manages an honest response, or a wink-wink, nudge-nudge response that usually sails over the tweeters' head. And then sometimes he'll give you both.
In this case, we got both with the inclusion of Ekstrom — 51 major-league appearance over five seasons — among the well-documented pace killers. But it didn't seem like Ekstrom, a Twitter user himself, immediately picked up on the joke.
I guess we can accept Ekstrom at his word about being in on it all along. Either way, the end result is a harmless, awkward, kinda funny Twitter exchange that illustrates how difficult it can be to separate realism from sarcasm in those 140 character segments.
Because of this, perhaps MLB would be well served to send a different letter to its players. All it has to say is: "Pick up the pace, would ya? And while you're at it, try to lighten up!"