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The Internet As A WMD

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A little post about Internet rumor-mongering, inspired by johnw's comment on this Baseball Musings post...

Origin:

All Balls, a new blog with five posts and zero readership.

The rumor?

The Dasuike Matsuzaka plot thickened as an interesting tidbit was floated my way by a good friend and reliable source.

Dice-K may end back up on the open market, assuming the Boston Red Sox do not meet the expectations that The Big D's agent, Scott Boras, has set. Apparently, the Sox have made an offer of $8M per year x 4 years, a far cry from the reported $15M that Boras seeks for his "ace quality pitcher".

Things get shady when a report has stated that Major League Baseball, with Bud Selig's approval, has agreed to the notion of Boras HIMSELF buying the rights to Dice-K, assuming the Sox do not up their offer by the deadline, Dec. 15. Apparently, Boras will make a payment of $25 million to the Seibu Lions organization, and own the exclusive rights to Matsuzaka. By creating this scenario, Boras will have the ability to place Dice-K on the open market, in time for a X-mas bidding war of epic porportions, presumably between the New York Yankees, Mets, Dodgers, Cubs, Rangers, and just about every other team seeking a number one ace pitcher.

I don't know who "shamus" is, or who his friends are, but I naturally have to call into question the credibility of a guy with a clear bias against the Red Sox and who advertises his unknown blog as having "the biggest balls in sports." Fake rumors about a hot topic that sound too crazy to be true are a great way to grab an audience, right? Wouldn't be the first time we saw someone try to pull this stunt.

If only it would've ended there. All Balls decided to email his story to Pride of the Yankees, a much more popular blog with a substantial readership. After all, it's no good to post a juicy made-up rumor on a site that nobody reads - you need to advertise. That's how you get traffic, after all. Pride of the Yankees posted the email, citing shamus as being an "informed and reasonable source."

Once these things get started, they're hard to stop. Sure enough, someone saw the rumor at PotY and decided to post it over at Bronx Banter, which I'm pretty sure is either the first- or second-most popular Yankees blog in the world. The commenter expressed his skepticism, as did a number of the following posts, but the damage was done - Was Watching picked up on the rumor, Baseball Musings linked it, and God only knows how many message boards are talking about it as we speak.

Here's the thing, though: it's complete bullshit. The rumor doesn't make any sense. Since when would the commissioner of Major League Baseball allow an agent to own the rights to a would-be international free agent? There are well-established rules in place for what happens if the American team and Japanese player can't agree on a contract, and this violates all of them. It's ridiculous.

...but it succeeded in accomplishing the shamus's goal of getting his website out there. After getting 1859 page views in its first 2+ weeks of existence, All Balls has received 1089 in the past day and a half. It doesn't matter to the author whether or not people believe him; he just wants to rack up the hit totals, since a number of them are going to stick. After all, people love being fed rumors, even if they're imaginary. All Balls is developing its audience as we speak.

People like this do greater damage to the sportsblogging community than you may know. It's already difficult enough to gain respect and legitimacy without clowns like shamus running around deliberately spreading lies for the purpose of gaining traffic. This is precisely why people don't trust blogs, and the worst part of it is that there's no way to prevent similar episodes in the future. Create a situation where anyone can say whatever he wants on the Internet and invariably you're going to run into stuff like this from time to time, where some of the premiere sportsbloggers around like (say) Jon from Dodger Thoughts or Geoff from Ducksnorts have to deal with the backlash and skepticism towards blogs because nobodies like shamus perpetuate the negative stereotype surrounding online sportswriting. It shouldn't have to be that way, but it is, and we can't do anything to fix it. It sucks.