This isn’t quite Gore beats Bush 2000, but the media—mainstream and other—dropped the ball Wednesday night in reporting a trade between the Mets and the Brewers that fizzled over medical concerns for one of the key players in the proposed swap.
Mets infielder Wilmer Flores is a bit of a folk hero in Metsville these days. In case you missed it, he apparently found out he’d been traded when he received a standing ovation from the Citi Field faithful, who learned from Twitter and other media that Flores, a Venezuelan who signed with the Mets when he was 16, was being traded to the Brewers. At the time, @SportsCenter tweeted: “BREAKING: Mets acquire Carlos Gómez from Brewers in exchange for Zack Wheeler & Wilmer Flores. (via multiple reports)”. Some 4,200 people retweeted it, including me.
Newsday’s headline read, “Mets acquire Carlos Gomez from Milwaukee Brewers,” while the New York Times said, “Mets Get Carlos Gomez.”
Flores could be seen wiping tears from his face while manning his shortstop position as the SNY announcers wondered what the heck he was still doing in the game. Flores was “ill-served” by his manager, according to play-by-play man Gary Cohen, to be left crying on the field when he was being swapped.
Yet the trade did not happen. The medical procedures that go along with trades are usually a formality, but this one turned out to be a deal-breaker. The phrase “pending a physical” doesn’t exactly liven up a baseball writer's story or tweet, and was thus left out of numerous reports on the would-be trade.
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson addressed the mess after the game. “Unfortunately social media, etc., got ahead of the facts, and it may have had an adverse effect on one of the players rumored to be involved,” he told the press. “It’s one of those things that happens today with modern communications.”
This morning, #WilmerFlores is a Twitter darling, even trending ahead of #WilmerValderrama. There’s an overwhelming outpouring of support for a guy who showed that ballplayers are not merely outrageously paid, detached automatons, but living, breathing, emotional humans who may actually harbor a bit of loyalty to their team.
Tweeted New York sports fan Joe DeRado (@JVD4th): “#WilmerFlores has earned more respect from me than any athlete in any sport. Loving your team like that is so often lost in the pros.”
I like certain things about Twitter–the immediacy, the ability to interact with readers, the checks and balance that those interactions provide. But I don’t like what Twitter has done to sports journalism, how it has effectively lowered our standards.