Yankees' Sonny Gray becomes fourth MLB player to have offensive Twitter post dredged up

Time to add one more to the list of MLB players who have had an offensive past on social media unearthed and distributed.

New York Yankees right-handed pitcher Sonny Gray briefly suspended his Twitter account on Wednesday after a racist tweet was discovered following a rough start against the Baltimore Orioles. While the tweet in question does not contain a slur like past problematic tweets from MLB players, the content undoubtedly reads as insensitive at best.

The tweet was apparently posted in Sept. 2012, when Gray was a farmhand in the Oakland Athletics system. The @Sir_Peanut account in question is reportedly Rashun Dixon, who was also an A’s minor leaguer at the time. Both the account and tweet Gray was replying to had already been deleted.

Sonny Gray’s reaction to discovery of old tweet

As screencaps of the tweet began to spread, Gray’s Twitter account was briefly deactivated. It was soon reactivated with every single one of his tweets deleted. While Gray’s following of more than 96,000 accounts remains intact, he now follows only three entities: Twitter’s verified account, his agents at McKinnis Sports Management and the MLB Players’ Association.

Gray spoke with reporters after the game and said the tweet was an inside joke between friends, according to Reuters.

Asked about the tweet Wednesday, Gray said, “I’m comfortable with who I am. You can ask anyone in this clubhouse who I am and what I’m about. … If people are trying to dig stuff up, then ask (Dixon). If people are gonna try to question my integrity and question who I am, then so be it, because I know who I am and if you know me, you know who I am.”

While Gray dismissed the tweet as a joke and implied Dixon was OK with the brand of humor, it’s worth remembering this wasn’t a private chat. It was on Twitter, an extremely public forum where Gray effectively releases statements to thousands of people. When you do that with an inside joke that is ostensibly funny to only a specific target, you’re still responsible for the risk of not everyone who sees the joke taking it well.

What makes Sonny Gray’s tweet different than Josh Hader et al.

Gray is now the fourth notable MLB player in the last month to find himself in hot water for offensive tweets. The trend was started when Josh Hader’s litany of slurs went viral during his appearance in the MLB All-Star game. That was soon followed by the Sean Newcomb of the Atlanta Braves and the Trea Turner of the Washington Nationals on Sunday.

While the tweets of all three players were reprehensible, they also came with an excuse that many supporters jumped on. All three players, now in their mid-20s, posted the tweets around 2011 and 2012, when they ranged between 17 and 19 years old. A lack of maturity was often cited as the primary reason for why those players’ tweets should be forgiven.

Gray is another case.

Unlike the other three, Gray is currently 28 years old, which would have made him 22 at the time of his tweet. Unless Gray wants to discount his three years of education at Vanderbilt University, the immaturity card really isn’t in play here.

Not everyone was laughing at what Sonny Gray called an “inside joke.” (AP Photo)
Not everyone was laughing at what Sonny Gray called an “inside joke.” (AP Photo)

Gray could be moved from rotation

While Hader was cheered by Brewers fans in his first appearance after the All-Star game, Gray is unlikely to see the same treatment from Yankee Stadium. That’s not because of any moral superiority on the part of fans in the Bronx; it’s simply because Josh Hader is good at baseball and Sonny Gray, presently, is not.

Gray yielded eight hits and seven earned runs over the course of 2.2 innings against the Baltimore Orioles, who recently completed a fire sale at the trade deadline. That line bumped his ERA this season up to 5.56, a level of performance that apparently has manager Aaron Boone considering a shakeup in the rotation.

Former starter Lance Lynn, who was acquired in a trade with the Twins, came out of the bullpen to relieve Gray and fired 4.1 scoreless innings. That could make him the top candidate to take Gray’s rotation spot.

Sonny Gray’s other unfortunate tweet

While Gray obviously had a rough day both on and off the field, he was still perplexedly smiling for at least one moment.

That might just be a nervous reaction to a tough day on the mound, but another tweet of Gray’s turned it into prophetic comedy.

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