The crazy tracking of a plane that supposedly was transporting Shohei Ohtani to Toronto on Friday (it wasn’t) has led to some introspective thoughts on that sort of thing from at least one baseball journalist, Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
I’ll be frank here. Bob’s been dunked on by quite a few folks here and elsewhere for messing up on reporting things that didn’t happen.
Today, though, Bob has written an excellent article talking about why baseball writers ought to take a step back from their breathless reporting of every rumor they hear — and he admits his own errors in doing so.
One of those rumors brought forth by Nightengale himself, during the Winter Meetings, was that the Cubs were interested in trading for Rays righthander Tyler Glasnow and that Christopher Morel might be involved.
Here’s what Bob wrote about that today:
This past week at the winter meetings, I tweeted that Chicago Cubs slugger Christopher Morel’s name surfaced in trade talks with the Tampa Bay Rays for pitcher Tyler Glasnow. Well, they’re engaged in trade talks and while the Rays may want Morel, I had received incorrect information and his name was never mentioned.
Jed Hoyer, Cubs president of baseball operations, who was on his way to address reporters in their media scrum, stopped me, and told me that I was wrong: Morel was not involved in the talks. They won’t trade a prized commodity for a one-year rental in Glasnow.
The conversation lasted eight, maybe nine seconds.
Next thing you know, a Chicago reporter breathlessly goes on his radio station and says that Hoyer and I got into a heated argument over the Cubs’ interest in Ohtani. The reckless report pops up on a Chicago website, and it goes viral.
Never did Ohtani’s name come up. Never did Hoyer raise his voice.
Never did this reporter ask Hoyer or myself what happened.
Instead, hundreds of baseball executives, officials, agents and players came asking what happened, with our brief conversation getting exaggerated to the point that it was said we nearly came to blows. This of course set off vitriol across the internet.
We can’t even accurately report on ourselves now, let alone real baseball news.
Bob is absolutely correct here. This is why I generally don’t post here about various rumors, because 99 percent of them turn out not to be true, as was the case with the Ohtani plane on Friday, or the morphing of one mistaken Cubs rumor into something that literally did not exist. And why does that happen?
We have agents who flat-out lie to us, but teams are prohibited from calling them out because of language in the collective bargaining agreement.
I could report right now that the Kansas City Royals are the mystery team in the Ohtani sweepstakes, and have told Ohtani they will out-bid everyone for his services.
And the Royals legally cannot publicly dispute it, according to the collective bargaining agreement. You’re permitted to say you’re interested in a free agent, but you can’t say you don’t want the player, and don’t even come close to offering your opinion on what a free agent may be worth on the open market.
Sorry, those are the rules, and if someone lies to us, we fall for it.
It’s all part of the sped-up 24-hour news cycle, which “requires” reporters to be “first” with information — but a lot of it turns out to not be the case at all. Not only for reporters, but for us as fans, I think we all need to take a step back and remember the Buck Showalter quote I posted yesterday:
What is it about our sports world, and society in general, that wants to know about something before it happens? I’m OK knowing about it when it happens.
Buck was, and is, correct. We’ve seen over the last week how false rumors can help destroy the credibility of reporters. I am glad to see Bob Nightengale, who admits in his article that he has passed along incorrect information that then got parsed into something completely different, say that he and other reporters have to change the way they do this sort of reporting:
It’s time we take a deep breath, and check ourselves before we further wreck ourselves.
We’ve caused enough damage, provoked heartache and have been irresponsible with fans’ emotions.
It’s a time to slow our roll – myself included – before we lose all of our credibility.
If we learned anything in this Ohtani hysteria, we should remind ourselves of the values and ethics of journalism that we learned when we broke into this business, and become more cautious, careful and accurate when delivering news.
It’s time to restore our values.
Let’s make sure our embarrassing Black Friday never happens again.
He’s absolutely right. Everyone involved in baseball reporting needs to take a step back and think about whether what they’re doing is either a) advancing their craft or b) providing accurate information or c) both.
Now, let’s see if Bob Nightengale and other national baseball writers actually live up to what Bob wrote today.