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On Rumors, Tweets And Sourcing

Recently, we have had a number of discussions on this site regarding rumors and how they are reported, by me, other bloggers and mainstream sportswriters.

I have been trying to think of the best way to address all of this, and then yesterday, this Paul Sullivan article appeared in the Tribune, quoting an individual who claimed to have seen Theo Epstein at a neighborhood Starbucks in Chicago. Notwithstanding the ludicrous premise of that in the first place, the place happens to be in my neighborhood -- I debunked it at Baseball Nation yesterday. It seemed to me to be either something to fill space in the paper on Sunday, or, as a commenter pointed out in the FanPost about this yesterday:

about how the speculation has reached such a ridiculous level.

If that was the intent, I think Sullivan swung and missed. Badly. And then there was this tweet from Scott Miller of CBS Sports:

Talked to two MLB execs who know Theo Epstein well. One predicts he stays and fixes #RedSox mess. One predicts he goes to #Cubs. Stay tuned.
Oct 09 via TweetDeckFavoriteRetweetReply

Way to go out on a limb there, Scott. Either he's coming or he isn't! All bases covered! No matter what happens with Epstein, Scott Miller can say he tweeted the correct information!

As you have probably noticed, I take a fairly dim view of tweeted rumors. The 140-character limit means that almost everything there lacks context. It's really hard to do nuance and detail via tweet; that doesn't mean that Twitter isn't useful for getting out information -- facts -- quickly and efficiently to a large audience.

But for anything more than that, I'd take it with a heavy dose of skepticism. This is why I've often pooh-poohed breathless tweets about trade rumors, firings or signings. Yes, sometimes they turn out to be true -- as in the Terry Francona situation after the Red Sox season ended. However, as we found out later, it wasn't as simple as Francona "being fired"; there were details that couldn't be said in a handful of tweets and there appear, even now, to be things about that situation that we may never know.

Which brings me to the point of this post. Many of you have criticized postings I have made regarding various rumors and other things that I have heard involving the Cubs organization, including trade rumors. This is a fair point. I assure you that "Deep Goat" is, in fact, a real person. I have stated in the past that I believe things that I have heard were true at the time that I was told; just because something didn't happen doesn't mean it wasn't discussed, or maybe it was supposed to happen but fell through for any one of a number of reasons. Some of you don't believe that; nevertheless, it happens to be true.

What I have learned through this is that sources often don't know everything. Or, in some cases, they are using the person they tell to float trial balloons, or even for personal purposes. If you read in the mainstream media, for example, that some player might be traded, or some executive is considering leaving a team, that might be an attempt by a team to see exactly what the reaction is, or for an individual to get leverage in negotiations.

The thing that you have criticized from me that is clearly valid is when I write, "I know something but I can't post it." Having considered this at some length, you are absolutely right. This doesn't advance the discussion. Having said that, I won't do this any more. I do hear many things that I cannot post, either because I have been asked not to or because I believe that doing so would compromise my source. In the future, I will not write that. If I'm told something I can't post, I will use it simply for my own background or information.

I hope that's a fair compromise for everyone here. We all hear and read many of the same things online; it is the interpretation of those things on which we often differ. Regarding the Cubs' current GM search and (hopefully) the changes in the organization to come, it is my belief that much of what we have "heard", via Twitter and other reports, is misdirection. Your opinion may differ. All I want to have here is intelligent discussion of the issues surrounding the Cubs, and (at least for me) a healthy skepticism surrounding every breathless tweet out there.

I hope this post answers some of the questions and concerns you've had about these issues. Now let's hope the Cubs have a new GM soon!