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The Rumor Mill

Like many of you, baseball’s July 31 trading deadline serves as an early Christmas for me. And with the deadline comes trade rumors, which only adds to the anticipation (and to the number of hours I stay glued to the internet/TV/phone searching for the latest). Hearing so-and-so might end up here for Player A and Player B is every bit as cool as knowing the gorgeous Keira Knightley, which I very unfortunately do not.

However, the truth of the matter is that baseball fans get all worked up over nothing most of the time, because most of these trade rumors are baseless and without any substance. That tends to be the nature of rumors, be they baseball-related or otherwise. Juicy bits of information often get blown way out of proportion thanks to peoples’ nature to embellish what they’ve heard. How do bogus baseball rumors start? I found an example in a "Royals Notebook" story in the Friday edition of the Kansas City Star:

Count the Royals among the interested parties if the Angels choose to part with suspended outfielder Jose Guillen in the off-season.

Club officials can't comment on the matter because Guillen remains under contract. But manager Tony Peña is well-acquainted with Guillen, a fellow Dominican, and the Royals have a gaping need to add a corner outfielder with a power bat. [ . . . ]

[ . . . ] Guillen was batting .294 with 27 homers and a career-high 104 RBIs in 148 games at the time of his suspension.

The Royals rank last among all 30 teams in production from their corner outfielders. Their left fielders, entering Thursday's game, were hitting a combined .216 with 13 homers and 58 RBIs. The club's right fielders were hitting .232 with 20 homers and 81 RBIs.

That’s all there is. The story (which is written by a very good journalist, Bob Dutton) relies on three things to try to express the Royals’ supposed "interest" in Jose Guillen:

1) Tony Pena’s relationship with Guillen
2) The Royals’ need for a power-hitting corner outfielder
3) Club officials being "[unable to] comment" due to tampering restrictions

Nowhere in the story is there any direct proof that the Royals are actually interested in pursuing a trade for this player. Conveniently, club officials "can’t comment on the matter" because Guillen’s still property of The Fighting Ecksteins. This is a fine job of mixing-and-matching players to teams; New Jersey Nets point guard Jason Kidd will probably be going to every team in the NBA in need of a point guard this season.

Ultimately, all Dutton’s done here is speculate on a possible scenario. That’s fine, because in a way, Guillen fits with what the Royals need to do to improve this winter. (He also doesn’t fit, given the organization’s stress on player character). What Bob Dutton thinks, however, doesn’t have anything to do with what Allard Baird’s plans are if he’s soured on Abraham Nunez as an everyday player.

I’m sure that in the next few days, hundreds of messages will be posted on message boards (The Royals want to trade for Jose Guillen!), hundreds of conversations will be started (Hey man, did you hear the Royals are going after that surly Angels outfielder?), and a controlled level of chaos will ensue thanks to Dutton’s clever wording. In the end, there’s probably nothing to this. It’s every bit as likely that the Royals actually aren’t interested in Guillen’s services
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