Carlos Gomez was finally moved Thursday, the Milwaukee Brewers shipping their prized outfielder to the Astros. This was less than 24 hours after the Twittersphere did what it tends to do, which is shoot first and ask questions later.
It was all over the Twitter/blogo/podcastsphere, before anything was officially announced, that Gomez was headed for the Mets in exchange for shortstop Wilmer Flores, who had been with the Mets organization the entirety of his career. It wasn't true, but, thanks to the wonders of social media, Flores heard it in the middle of the game he happened to be playing at the time. And so he wound up on the field fighting back tears, believing it to be the last time he would ever be wearing a Mets uniform.
Twenty-four hours later, Gomez teared up himself, acknowledging his own New Media-inflicted emotional roller coaster by saying "I'm not shocked by anything after what happened last night."
So, yes, boys and girls and Evelyn from "A League of Their Own," there is crying in baseball. There's also a responsibility to nail something down before you report it, a quaint notion that sometimes succumbs to itchy trigger fingers with a full load of 144 characters in the mag.
Look. This is not some old-guy-nodding-over-his-oatmeal rant, even if it sounds like one well begun. Twitter and all its various social-media cousins have revolutionized how we consume news, and that's not a bad thing. Getting the word out as quickly as possible has always been a major part of the journalist's charge, especially when the word's coming from people who don't necessarily want it out there. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, as they say. So the less control the aforementioned people have over the message, the better off we all generally are.
Which does not mean the journalists getting the word out don't bear a responsibility to show some control themselves. In fact, they have more responsibility than ever.
The problem with the Twittersphere is that, while it's easier now to get news out into the 24/7 cycle, it's easier now to get news out into the 24/7 cycle. By that I mean, it's a hell of a lot easier to jump the gun on a story. All it takes are those 144 characters and 10 to 15 seconds. And so the mad rush to get something out there before your competitors has become even madder.
The main casualty of that, as it always is, is accuracy. And that's the downside to the Twittersphere: It puts more of a premium on getting it out there than getting it right, because even if you get it wrong ... wow, check it out! I just picked up 500 more followers!
Which is the currency by which we measure success in media these days, apparently.
And which leads to the absurdity of Wednesday night, with Wilmer Flores in tears at shortstop because he found out in the middle of game he was being traded (or so thought). When he next came to bat, he got an ovation from the fans -- who also thought he was being traded, because of course they were all firmly plugged into the latest trade news on their phones.
The only ones who didn't get the word were the Mets themselves, who hadn't told Flores anything because there wasn't anything to tell him.
That would have been bad enough had the Twitter gunslingers been right. But they weren't.
And that, boys and girls, is your Mass Media 101 lesson for today.