A whirling Darvish of pandemonium

Much speculation brought about a series of deadlines and anti-climactic endings in baseball Tuesday with one of the offseason’s top narratives coming to a close. You may be familiar with it:

Yu Darvish is coming to the major leagues and it’s going to cost a lot of money and we’re not really sure who’s on top. It could be the Cubs but we don’t think so though it could be the Blue Jays or maybe the Rangers, definitely.

The world of Twitter rumor-mongering dove into the ridiculous this past week with Yu Darvish mania taking hold of the minds and thumbs of baseball fans, insiders and analysts alike. What ensued was a steady stream of rumors, rebuttals and retractions. The trouble, of course, was that nobody knew a thing at all and those who did—likely fewer than 10 people—weren’t going to talk anytime soon. Speculation lived up to its truest sense as we collectively played the matching game, piecing together who would want Darvish enough to bid and who has enough money in the coffers to afford him.

Unfortunately those who went looking for legitimate insight into the process and its development were tricked—willingly or otherwise—by those pretending to have the inside word on which team would be negotiating with the Japanese phenom on his North American future. It was only a matter of time before the anonymous Twitter accounts equipped with hashtags and the so-called inside scoop sent the Darvish speculation off the rails. In many ways, it was the ugly side of the social media machine which now drives so much of modern sports journalism.

It has popped up in spurts this offseason: Jose Reyes signs with Miami for $116 million the day free agency opens; Albert Pujols signs with the Cardinals, Marlins and Cubs in the same day yet winds up with the Angels weeks later; Alex Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays are in on every big name on the table yet somehow emerge with Sergio Santos, Ben Francisco and (gasp) Jeff Mathis despite none of them being connected to the team. Even with the ever-present inaccuracies, those who called these rumors into question were met with a chorus of rebuttals along this lines of “Don’t you read the internet” and other gems.

You’ll take care to note that the primary baseball reporters who are at the forefront of reliable information didn’t touch many of these rumors until the eleventh hour as the dust appeared to settle.

This is not to flog the merits of social media, blogging, etc., as they are all key in the development of journalism at large. What we are seeing is a transition of sports writing from speaking at a pedestal to dialogue with those fans who care more than anyone making a living off of it. The Darvish saga and the 2011 offseason at large have been a forceful reminder that you can’t trust everything you read, though it may come with a header pronouncing “Source,” promising information from deep within the vaults of an organization.

There are motives at the heart of every action in baseball and beyond. Even reliable journalists may be happy to help out an agent by stating a particular client is “drawing a lot of interest” from teams around the league when really there is none. For some it is about maintaining a working relationship with those who help them earn their checks. For others it is about generating the follows or blog hits to place them among the Web elite. At the end of the day it’s up to the reader to be discerning enough to separate myth from fact.

Yu Darvish was posted by the Texas Rangers on Dec. 19, 2011 for a fee of $51.7 million. This is what we know. Until the day he signs a contract and puts on that cap or announces he will stay in Japan, that’s how things will stay.

Before that day comes, be careful what you read. In 2011, it’s a good bet if someone is telling you about it, you’re searching the wrong hashtag.

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