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On Wilmer Flores, Social Media and Everything In Between

Social media and sports, man.

Wednesday provided another crazy night on the web when Carlos Gomez was about to be a Met for the second time (until he wasn’t), Wilmer Flores cried at shortstop and a lot of media members ended up having egg on their faces. It’s hard not to think of a line from Colin Farrell from True Detective this season, as he complained a reporter once told him, “I’d rather be first and wrong than second and right.”

That’s not entirely the case of what played out on Wednesday, but you can see why the “media” is generally loathed by players, readers, viewers and just about everyone who isn’t the proverbial ink-stained wretch themselves. And bear in mind this is sports, which is ultimately trivial stuff.

Here’s the long and short of what unfolded Wednesday night, in case you’re away from your computer.

1. Rumors began to spread the Mets were in the market for a big name hitter.

2. Around 8 p.m. New York Post baseball insider Joel Sherman tweeted Carlos Gomez to the Mets was a “done deal.”

2a. That news began to spread and hit the blogs (such as this very site), newswires and ESPN.com, as Sherman’s reporting is almost always reliable. It was confirmed by other baseball insiders types — the MLB At Bat app even flashed a notification the deal was close. In retrospect, the problem here appears that everyone jumped the gun on the deal being done, forgetting about the “pending physicals” nature since Zack Wheeler is currently out for the season with Tommy John surgery, while Carlos Gomez dealt with a hip issue in June.

2b. Fans at Citi Field plastered to their phones found out about the deal and gave Flores, a lifetime Met, a standing ovation for what they thought would be his last at-bat with the club. Flores found out via the fans near the Mets’ dugout … so we can tick that off on the checklist of things that have happened in 2015 sports.

3. Flores returned to his position on the field and is seen wiping away tears — something else that hits the blog cycle and turns a relatively matter-of-fact baseball trade into Twitter’s cause célèbre of the moment.

3a. The deal was apparently close enough to being completed that Brewers manager Craig Counsell told Gomez on the team flight he was being traded after it hit social media. Milwaukee catcher Martin Maldonado even tweeted a goodbye photo, which has since been deleted.

4. After the game, Mets manager Terry Collins says he didn’t know there was a deal in place, as to why Flores remained in the game when its customary to remove players once they’ve been dealt. Mets GM Sandy Alderson told reporters there wasn’t a deal and blamed it getting out of hand on social media.

Got all that? It’s basically a big game of telephone. As of Thursday morning, there is still dispute over Gomez’s hip and why, if at all, it caused the Mets to back out. Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin maintains he’s fine and the MRI backs him up. The Brewers spin is now that the Mets balked over money, an easy enough premise to believe.

If not for the Flores reaction, which itself caught wildfire on social media — Fox’s Jimmy Traina’s video on Twitter is up to 4,700 retweets as of Thursday morning — this probably doesn’t become a story. Maybe we all laugh at the Mets — again they’re an easy target — for botching another move. Alderson is both acerbic and tight-lipped, so it’s doubtful he’s going to sit down with reporters over a beer and spill the beans why he chose not to make the deal, which above all sounds like it was at some point close to being done.

Blaming “social media” as a catch-all doesn’t really explain anything except how a player found out about rumors during the game. We may never know the real reasons this fell apart and the spin on both sides is only going to make it murkier. (A couple days from now we’ll probably forget it ever happened in the first place.)

As it is, 99 times out of 100 this deal goes through as first reported and we go on with our lives. This is the one outlier — somewhat akin to DeAndre Jordan changing his mind after signing an offer sheet with the Mavericks earlier this summer, in that it only becomes a story when it doesn’t go to plan.

For his part, Sherman offered up this brief and wholly reasonable explanation of what led to his initial tweet which started the 140-character avalanche down the digital mountain.

Based on what we’ve seen this won’t be the last time something like this happens. Will reporters, bloggers and the rest of the media become more hesitant to post something before it’s 100.0 percent official? Probably not, the race to be first or break news is too insatiable. Instead the cycle will again repeat itself:

Sources (i.e. agents or club officials) will feed reporters information. Reporters will put that information on Twitter. Media outlets will then report on these, umm, reports or other qualifiers to couch second-hand information. Push notifications will light up on your phone.

Reporters will remain at the mercy of the information from their sources. The judgement of media outlets will be tested on which person with the verified blue check mark next to their Twitter avatar is reliable enough to hit publish on a post or not.

The reader or viewer? I’m not sure where they fit into all this. Like I said earlier, the non-trade fallout and Flores’ tears became the story and clicks are clicks at the end of the day, for better or worse. As always, the reader has the power to click or view what they please under their own free will. Some might enjoy all this crazy stuff, either how it played out or how it allows one to revel in the media jumping the gun. Most, I’d imagine, don’t really care all that much and quickly move on to the next story.

Or I’d look it it this way: Mets fans were briefly happy that Carlos Gomez was coming to Citi Field. Now he isn’t. I’d wager fans are likely more upset why the Mets nixed the trade at the last second than why seemingly every baseball reporter and major news outlet ran with the story as it broke on Twitter Wednesday night.

Sometimes when you’re in the “media” you don’t see the forest for the trees, so to speak.