Updated July 26
The real casualty of the days before the trade deadline is trust. Ordinarily I believe everything I read on the Internet, because our system of checks and balances ensures that nothing false or defamatory can ever find its way into pixels or print. During the next few days, however, it's possible that a few of the published "scoops" might not pan out.
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Already I've noticed inconsistencies. For instance, it's not possible that Carlos Beltran, Hunter Pence, B.J. Upton and Heath Bell can all top the Phillies' wish list. Heck to Betsy, they don't even play the same position! What this suggests to me is that different journalists are hearing different things from different sources, all of whom might have a different agenda.
And who are these mysterious sources, anyway? Every rumor seems to be fueled by reports from a different "unnamed scout" or "individual familiar with negotiations" or "Sandy Alderson." Whatever happened to personal accountability?
I'm starting to think that maybe, just maybe, there's some gamesmanship involved in the process. For instance, a team exec might whisper something he knows to be untrue into a journalist's ear, hoping that its dissemination will prompt a foe to act rashly. I know: It breaks my heart to think that baseball could ever be tainted by such scoundrelism and rascality. But this is the world we live in.
The best advice I can give you is this: Trust no one. Any time you hear a piece of information that doesn't sound quite right, verify it independently. Call teams' front offices if need be; that's what they're there for. Godspeed, stalwart truth-seekers.