Waist deep in the big muddy
I covered my first Winter Meetings in Dallas in 2005 and quickly learned that the annual event makes for, without question, my least favorite week of the year. As a reporter covering the meetings, if you’re not loitering in a hotel lobby and enduring endless small talk with fellow baseball scribes, you’re chasing down a story on some rumor that, nine times out of 10, has little to no merit.
During those meetings in Dallas, I listened to a conversation between two newspaper reporters, who shall remain nameless in this space, discussing possible trade scenarios involving the clubs they covered.
“Would your team be interested in [Player X],” Reporter A would say.
“Possibly. Would your team have a need for [Player Z],” Reporter B would counter.
“Yeah, I think so.”
The next day, I read, in disbelief, Reporter B’s notes package, in which he mentioned a rumor that Reporter A’s club was interested in Player Z. Now, maybe he had used that conversation as the basis for a discussion with a club source, who confirmed that, yes, Reporter A’s team was interested in Player Z. Unfortunately, it’s just as likely that he used the conversation as the basis for an empty rumor to satisfy his bosses and his readers.
(I apologize for the impromptu run through the alphabet above, but you get the idea.)
I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. Countless times over the course of the offseason, you, no doubt, read a rumor that never amounts to anything. And that very well might have been the case this week, with the reports that the Indians were interested in the Royals’ Mark Teahen.
It began when the Kansas City Star reported on its Web site Sunday night that the Indians and Royals were discussing a trade involving Teahen. The [Cleveland] Plain Dealer picked up on the rumor and reported it as well. Yours truly then wrote a story for MLB.com, saying the rumor had been reported by multiple publications. And in my Monday mailbag column for Indians.com, I detailed what I felt the trade would mean for the Tribe, while being sure to point out that plenty of trades get discussed each offseason and very few get off the ground.
All of this happened within half a day.
Since then, Royals GM Dayton Moore has told MLB.com that the rumor is a “flat-out lie.” And I just spoke with Indians GM Mark Shapiro, who made it pretty clear the Indians have not had one discussion with the Royals about Teahen.
I write all this, then, for two reasons. For one, I want to express one regret about my handling of the matter. Because I was citing other outlets’ reports of the rumor (indeed, no one with the Indians would confirm it, on or off the record), I should have included a question mark in the headline on the blog posting below (“Tribe talkin’ Teahen”) and should have requested that such a question mark run alongside the headline to my story for MLB.com (if you haven’t noticed, that question mark, for what it’s worth, is up on the site now).
Other than the absence of that small, yet meaningful, punctuation mark, I feel I treated the Teahen situation as best I could, following up on the reports of two major metropolitan newspapers while never once citing the rumor as fact. I will leave the ultimate judgment of my handling of the matter up to you.
The other, more pressing reason I’m writing all this is to express my concern over the way incorrect information so often spreads in this day and age. This is no new phenomenon, of course, but, as we enter the winter Hot Stove season, it’s certainly worth mentioning. Over the course of the next few months, you will see the Indians linked to many a free agent and/or trading partner. I will do my best to use my resources to sort rumor from fact and to make it clear which is which in my reports on Indians.com and in this blog.
But as I wrote in the mailbag and as we learned with the Teahen situation, you, as a fan and reader, are best-served to not get overly invested in any rumor until it becomes fact. Wasted energy, much like unsubstantiated reporting, is a bad thing. Take it from a guy who just spent two days writing about a trade that will probably never happen.