Since becoming involved with the Twitter scene a few months ago, I've come to find that there are certain things I like about the service and some things I don't. One thing I really like about it is that it allows me to keep a finger on the pulse of Twins fans at large, since I follow and read the tweets of so many fans of varying age, gender and background.
Over the past few days, that pulse has been racing a bit. That's because fans have been distressed by a recent report that the Twins had made an offer to veteran starter Jarrod Washburn. There's a tendency amongst a lot of fans to hear a rumor of any sort, immediately interpret it as 100 percent true, and react accordingly. I would recommend putting any speculation you hear from a media member and blogger and putting it through the sniff test before directing anger at the Twins' front office for something they very possibly might not have done.
The initial report on Washburn, which I referenced in passing during Thursday's post, was filed by a CBS Sports writer named Scott Miller. If you recognize that name, it might be because Miller covered the Twins for the Pioneer Press back in the '90s. That fact, combined with the fact that the Twins reportedly attempted to trade for Washburn during the 2008 season and the speculation that they've been interested in him since he became a free agent this offseason, have lent credibility to this report. But, in cases like this, it's best to remain skeptical until you hear something from a source that you can truly trust.
While Miller might still have some connections with the Twins, he hasn't covered the team in over a decade. Writers on the national scene just don't have the same type of inside access to a team that our local beat writers have, and those national writers also seem to have a greater interest in concocting rumors in order to get their name out there. I'm not saying these writers for major publications are blatantly fabricating stories, but I have found that they are far more likely to write and publish a rumor based on very little actual evidence.
Some fans find it annoying that La Velle E. Neal III and Joe Christensen don't comment on their blogs about every Twins-related rumor that pops up, but I find it extremely refreshing. To me, those two seem far more discerning about which rumors actually have legs, which makes them far more trustworthy to me. I recall that during the Johan Santana frenzy during the 2007-08 offseason, Sports Illustrated scribe Jon Heyman (the genius baseball mind who helped keep Bert Blyleven out of the Hall of Fame once again this year by leaving Bert off his ballot while casting a vote for Jack Morris, employing the impeccable logic that "those who watched jack morris know they were watching a hall of famer") reported something like 600 false trade rumors involving Santana. Yet, the only writer who accurately predicted the exact trade ahead of time, to my recollection, was Christensen, who wrote about a Gomez/Humber/Mulvey/Guerra package several weeks before the actual deal went down. That earns him credibility. What has Scott Miller done to earn such trust from Twins' fans?
Incidentally, Neal did take the liberty of looking into this latest Washburn rumor, and posted on his blog yesterday that he had "spoken with several people in the organization and received NO indications that an offer has been made." I was also somewhat amused by this tidbit in Neal's piece: "And, as one person with the club told me, Brian Duensing might be better than Washburn right now." That's because I had basically said the same thing in Wednesday's post:
I reference that comment not to gloat, but to make a simple point. When evaluating these rumors, beyond thinking about the credibility of the source, it is important to employ basic logic. In his article Miller suggested that the Twins' one-year offer to Washburn was likely for around $6 million. It has been discussed exhaustively here and in other spaces how tight the Twins are financially at this point; would it really make sense for them to spend that much money on a No. 5 starter, regardless of how much interest they've had in him in the past?
I'd rather settle for Brian Duensing in the fifth spot than spend several million dollars on Washburn while ignoring the team's infield needs; in fact, "settle" might not be the most appropriate word because I'm not at all convinced that Duensing will be an inferior pitcher to the 35-year-old Washburn in 2010.
It is very possible that the Twins could end up signing Washburn. But many people are acting like it's already happened, and expending a lot of needless frustration. When you catch wind of these confounding rumors, take into account the source and actual likelihood of it before letting them ruin your day. It will prevent a lot of unnecessary stress.