One of the most bizarre events in the recent history of Major League Baseball occurred last night, and many people feel social media is to blame. The New York Mets lost to the San Diego Padres 7-3, but the outcome of the game seemed like an afterthought in the bigger picture. The game will be remembered for an iconic moment when social media directly impacted a sporting event as it played out on live TV.
The drama started in the early afternoon, hours before the scheduled first pitch. ESPN's Adam Rubin sent the following tweet:
#Mets still working on a deal that apparently would really please fans if it materialized.
— Adam Rubin (@AdamRubinESPN) July 29, 2015
This made the long-suffering Mets fan base anxious, while simultaneously putting every national and local baseball writer on full alert, eager to break the eventual news. The baseball media went into a frenzy when a trade sending Mets' shortstop Wilmer Flores and injured pitcher Zack Wheeler to the Milwaukee Brewers for ex-Mets prospect-turned-superstar Carlos Gomez was reported on Twitter in the middle of the game.
Some of the most respected baseball reporters in the country ran with it:
Sources: Gomez for Flores and Wheeler
— Andy Martino (@MartinoNYDN) July 30, 2015
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) July 30, 2015
It is a done deal #Mets are getting Gomez
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) July 30, 2015
Flores, who has been with the Mets organization since he was 16, was visibly crying on the field, while the SNY broadcasters were confused about why he stayed in the game.
Wilmer Flores A) Still being in this game and B) crying his eyes out, is absolutely insane pic.twitter.com/bBIwC3igaG
— Young Unsweetened (@KFCBarstool) July 30, 2015
When Flores came up to bat in the seventh inning, the fans chanted his name and gave the young shortstop a standing ovation. "Most of these fans know that Wilmer is about to get traded. Social media being such these days, everybody knows what the situation is. It's a little odd that Wilmer's still in the game," SNY broadcaster Gary Cohen said.
Flores was signed out of Venezuela in 2007 and was upset that he heard about the trade from "fans" during the game. "There was this rumor I was going to get traded," Flores told reporters after the game. Brewers catcher Martin Maldonado even tweeted a since-deleted picture of Gomez and other Latin teammates, saying goodbye to their friend.
So, why was Flores still in the game? The trade didn't happen. The Mets and Brewers had agreed on the deal—pending medical examinations. And the Mets were reportedly unhappy with the medical report on Gomez. Deal off. Flores stays.
Asked official involved with Gomez trade why Flores is still in game. Reply: "No deal is done. The entire world has jumped the gun."
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 30, 2015
So, who was at fault? According to the Mets, social media is to blame for the embarrassing situation that simultaneously teased fans and brought crying to baseball (sorry, Tom Hanks).
"Unfortunately, social media got ahead of the facts, and it may have had an adverse effect for one of the players involved," Mets GM Sandy Alderson said after the game.
"Everybody has got a phone; everybody's on it. I don't know why anyone comes [to the ballpark] anymore. Just sit at home and watch games on TV and on their cellphones. I got guys in the dugout reporting this thing, and there is no deal," Mets manager Terry Collins said after the game.
The situation is one that's never happened before, at least in MLB, but thanks to modern technology, it will likely happen again and again. Twitter is tempting journalists to get information first, as opposed to getting it right. But did someone from inside the Mets' or Brewers' organization leak the info, prematurely, in the first place? It sure seems that way.
While reporters should obviously have hedged their tweets with the key words "pending medical examination," the same reporters would have been praised if the deal didn't fall apart. It should serve as a lesson for anyone with a Twitter account, but it won't.
The only lesson we learned is that when reporters have a chance to break news via Twitter, they're going to do it.