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Confessions of a trade rumor skeptic: It's all nonsense

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We are being fed a steady diet of misinformation, unverifiable hunches, and outright lies. All in the service of the almighty page view.

It's all a joke.
It's all a joke.
Jim McIsaac

The Dodgers offered this...

The Phillies are interested in that....

The Cubs are going to be in now on....

The Giants are saying this package is available....

Amaro is trying hard to move these guys....

Just ignore it.  It's all bullshit.

This time of year is the height of the silly season in baseball.  November and December come close, but there's nothing like the weeks and days leading up to the last day of July.  This is trade rumor season, or, as I like to think of it, the season for reporters to invent the "news."

Let's put aside the fact that even if reporters were getting this "information" from sources -- agents, scouts, team executives, whoever -- those sources have every incentive to lie.  After all, if you're in hot pursuit for a player, wouldn't you want other teams to think otherwise?  Or, if you were scouting one team's minor leaguers in detail, wouldn't you want that team to think that you were scouting many teams that way?  The incentives to misinform are legion.

Also put aside that the "information" that we get is completely unverifiable, by anyone.  Not only are we never present at any of the relevant events, but neither are reporters.  They do not listen in on intra-team meetings or inter-team phone calls.  They cannot observe what goes on in the minds of executives.  There is no part of the trade process they are a part of.  What they "report" on is not observable facts or events; rather, it's spin that comes from the mouths of interested parties.  If it's even that.

With those two things aside, let's look at what the real incentives are here.  And, frankly, there's only one incentive here that's relevant - draw people into your site for advertisers.  That's it.  Beginning and end of story.

This is the economy of the entertainment media.  These are the marching orders that the entertainers at ESPN have.  This is the command given to every rumor monger on Twitter.  Get your followers so you get people to click on our links and we can report that to advertisers.  Full stop.

This is not just my skepticism.  This is widely regarded as what's going on in the internet world these days.  This story from January on NPR's excellent show "On the Media" does a great job describing this world.  As the reporter being interviewed puts it:

That’s obviously clearly the biggest problem because we are literally rewarded for sharing things that people want to read, which I think is the opposite of the job of a journalist. I think a journalist’s job is to write about things that people don't want to read or that someone doesn't want you to read. Everything else, as the old saying goes, "is just advertising." Instead of telling a story that needs to be told, we’re thinking about how to tell something that people are going to want to read and going to want to share.

And, more pithily but perfectly summing up what everyone should remember this time of year (and all times, frankly):

This is not a glitch in the system. It is the system. Readers are gullible. The media is feckless. Garbage is circulated around. And everyone goes to bed happy and fed.

In other words, we are being fed a steady diet of misinformation, unverifiable hunches, and outright lies.  All in the service of the almighty page view.

Don't believe it.  Don't believe any of what you read about trades until they happen.  At best, it's made up nonsense.  At worst, it's deliberate misinformation for self-serving purposes.

So when the Phillies do nothing at all today, or trade away someone who has never been on anyone's radar, feel free to blame Ruben Amaro Jr. for being bad at his job or for not knowing how to leverage his position to make the team better.  But don't blame him for not closing on the deal that you read about earlier in the week or for acquiring the top prospects you read were available from another team.

There was no close deal.  There were no talks.  There were no available top prospects.

Or maybe there were.  But, we'll never know.