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Sports

The MLB Trade Deadline and the Media's Race to the Bottom

Hot stove action brings out the worst in reporters.

by David Matthews
Aug 1 2014, 4:46pm

Photo by Flickr user Keith Allison

Another July 31 MLB Waiver-Free Trade Deadline Sponsored (probably) by Budweiser has come and gone, and the baseball media was given more than enough to grow tumescent about. The day kicked off with the Oakland Athletics, the team with the best record in baseball, trading their Cuba-escaping masher Yoenis Cespedes to Boston for at least two months of ace Jon Lester's services. It's clear that the A's are aiming to advance much further than the ALCS this year. After adding Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the rotation earlier in July (and shipping out top prospect Addison Russell), GM Billy Beane is clearly convinced his team needs to win now and got a stacked rotation in order to do so; his pitching staff might be better, top-to-bottom, than that of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Oakland's potential World Series opponent.

The Red Sox continued to strip their team of starting pitching by sending John Lackey to the St. Louis Cardinals for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly. It's been a lost year for Boston, so it makes sense for them to trade assets they were going to lose anyway for young, cheap (relatively) talent like Cespedes. Lackey has one more year on his contract, but getting Craig and Kelly for that is a steal for GM Ben Cherington.

José Altuve is the only bright spot in a miserable Houston Astros season. Read more.

The biggest shoe dropped later in the day when the recently surging Tampa Bay Rays finally decided to trade pitcher David Price to the Detroit Tigers, who sorely need an ace thanks to Justin Verlander's struggles. The rivalry that's sprung up between the Tigers and A's has been fun to watch over the last few seasons, and should those teams meet again in the playoffs, we'll get to witness some quality baseball. 

The trade deadline was undoubtedly fun, but what wasn't fun was the churning on social media and on major sports sites like ESPN. WHO WILL GO WHERE? a hundred reporters breathlessly asked. In their rush to report news of trades as quickly as possible—to get "scoops" that nobody needs, since teams always announce trades as soon as they're made—ESPN reporters got fooledpathetically, by fake Twitter accounts. If you were interested in the trade deadline, the simplest thing to do would have been to unplug your computer, go for a walk, and read the newspapers the next day to find out who had actually been moved and where. If you wanted to be confused by fake information, however, you should head straight for social media, where the silliness of the occasion brought out the worst in everyone.

Twitter encourages journalists to break news as fast as possible, an impulse that's not far removed from the old internet tradition of writing "first!" in the comments sections of articles. A few reporters are very, very good at this: Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski (of #WOJBomb fame) knows everything that happens in the NBA before it happens, and ESPN's Chris Broussard and Marc Stein aren't far behind him. (The three of them appear to be mortal enemies.) For baseball, there's CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, who is always very excited to report the news: 

He's usually in such a rush that his fingers are moving faster than his brain. Who has time to proofread or explain? When you have a scoop, mash your fingers on the iPhone keyboard and break the news! An hour after the news breaks, of course, no one remembers if it was Ken Rosenthal or Buster Olney who first reported that Martin Prado was traded to the Yankees. That doesn't matter: "Scoops" are a way for reporters to keep score, a running dick-measuring contest. When you're in that mindset, it really is important to note who comes out with what story first. The rest of us will stick to watching baseball.  

David Matthews would like to go to tamps. Follow him on Twitter.