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July 27, 2004

Deadline Etiquette

The Dos and Don'ts of Trade Rumor Mongering

by Jim Baker

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Before fantasy baseball usurped nudism as the nation's third-favorite hobby, one of the most popular topics on sports call-in shows was speculative trades. Prior to having the opportunity to make these moves for oneself in the alternate universe of fantasy team ownership, fans would use radio hosts as sounding boards for their swapping whims. It was pretty obvious that everybody harbored dreams of being Frank Lane, and that radio hosts, desperate for something to talk about, would let these callers concoct insanely one-sided deals that would often sound a little something like this:

Caller: First time caller, long-time stalker of you and your family. How ya doin'?

Host: Good. You?

Caller: I got a sciatic nerve condition and I'm three months behind on my mortgage. Thanks for asking.

Host: What's on your mind?

Caller: How about this for a trade: Angels give Tim Foli and Ron Jackson to the Dodgers for Steve Sax, Pedro Guerrero and Bob Welch?

Host: You think the Dodgers would go for that?

Caller: Huh? Yeah...why not?...

Host: Well, it seems a little tilted the Angels' way, doesn't it?

Caller: How you mean?

Fortunately, those days are mostly behind us as the people responsible for screening such calls rarely let them through anymore under threat of beheading. This doesn't mean the urge to trade still isn't out there among the populace--regardless of how much tradelust has been sated by the fantasy/rotisserie construct. This is especially apparent this time of year, as the July 31 trade deadline approaches.

We've all got trade fever. Everybody is obsessed with the possibility that massive amounts of jockflesh will be migrating around and about the American and National Leagues. In many cases, it's not even important that these trades ever even take place. No, what matters is the mere possibility that they might.

Which leads us to the advice portion of today's effort: How to start, spread and maintain your very own trade rumor. "Why would I want to do that?" some of you might be asking. So that you can leave a mark on society, of course. So that you say that you did something with your life. Not everyone can be a big shot and start a corporation, but anyone can start a rumor. The true test of a person is not how much money they make, but how much misinformation they can circulate among the populace.

Here are some hints about how to do it:

  1. Make it reasonable: This isn't to say it can't be outlandish. Heck, Manny Ramirez for Alex Rodriguez was an incredibly outlandish trade rumor and it turned out to be true. No, by "reasonable" I mean that it shouldn't be too one-sided. Nothing like the one featured in the prototypical 1980s sports talk show call reminisced about above.

  2. Have it make sense: In other words, don't have a contender dumping a very good player who isn't arbitration-eligible yet and don't have a non-contender loading up for the stretch drive. Beyond that, let it fly.

  3. Give it a hook: There's got to be something sexy in it, and by "sexy" I don't mean sexual. In this context, sexy implies attractiveness without the attendant lust. At least, not lust in the carnal sense. What I'm trying to say is that there's got to be a hook on the trade. You could certainly conceive of a trade involving a back number middle reliever for a second-string catcher, but who would care? It won't have legs and by "legs" I am not referring back to the attractiveness thing alluded to in the first sentence. I'm talking traveling ability. Shelf life. Staying power. You start a rumor tonight, you want it to still be viable on Saturday morning when the trade deadline is only hours away.

  4. Imply secret knowledge: Talking about horse racing, someone once told me that his "cousin worked in the room where they decide the winners." I thought this was preposterous, but he said it with conviction and that's valuable input here. Throttle back on the wildness of the claim while keeping your seriousness about you. In other words, don't make an outrageous claim like you talked to Theo Epstein while the two of you were waiting for a bus. Instead, say your brother drives for FedEx and he was picking up a package at Fenway Park and saw a post-it note that said, "T.E., call Jim Hendry, RE: Nomar."

Now that you've figured what your rumor is and how you plan on "verifying" it, you need to figure a way to get it in front of people. Here are a few ideas:

Write me with it.
Most of the time, I'm a pretty responsible guy. I don't like innuendo or unsubstantiated rumors. There are, however, times when I'm up against a deadline and other times when I'm not feeling especially well. If you can catch me at the very juncture of those two circumstances, I might just succumb and print anything you suggest. Of course, I would do so in the most professional manner possible. How? By giving it this intro: "There is no truth to the rumor that..."

Send it in an e-mail.
For some reason, people seem compelled to forward e-mails that end with something like this:

Send this e-mail to 324 people you know in the next 10 minutes or something horrible will happen to your most intimate parts. A woman in Brisbane, Australia failed to do so and she was bitten by a shark six years later! A man in Vancouver did as he was supposed to and his gas mileage increased by 14%.

State it as fact.
Look: rumors have to start somewhere. Why can't it be with you? Just start saying it happened and before you know it, it will be out there.

"Hey," you say, "how do I know when I've succeeded?"

It's obvious: when the rumor comes all the way back around to you. That's when you know you're a big league trade rumor monger.

Related Content:  Trade,  Trade To Dodgers

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