The Albert Pujols Unnamed Source-A-Thon

I've been working the phones all day and I can confirm that making up unnamed sources is incredibly easy. (So is making up phones!) But when we deride, say, Jon Heyman for his recent tweeting and writing re: the Cardinals and Pujols having "virtually no chance" of coming to an agreement I hope that's not what we're implying. I didn't spend a lot of time in J-School before washing out and switching to English, but I am relatively certain that making up sources is one of those things that just can't be done. I don't think it's constructive to suggest that anybody's guilty of that. 

What ought to be questioned about stories like Heyman's isn't their veracity but the conclusions that are being drawn from them, or the way they're being woven together. Assume that someone "familiar with the talks" (I do wish he were more specific with his source-labeling—I'm familiar with the talks, as is Jon Heyman, as is Albert Pujols) says there is "virtually no chance for a deal before the three-time NL MVP reports to spring camp February 16." 

I think there are still two things worth quibbling with about this story from that position. First: the initial connection between that fact and Pujols's eventual free agency. There's something easy about betting, a week out of the end of ostensibly stalled negotiations, that Pujols and the Cardinals won't come to an agreement—it's basically betting against one very specific outcome in favor of an entire field of different ones. But Heyman (and my own more paranoid half) make it seem as though the source has picked one side out of two. Pujols won't sign before Spring Training; Pujols will, therefore, proceed to free agency. The source, unnamed readers confirm, is saying no such thing. 

If Pujols doesn't sign he could sign with the Cardinals after the season; for that matter, he could sign during the season. To be honest, his stated goal of avoiding distraction during the season is completely unattainable unless he either continues to negotiate with the Cardinals or announces that he's going to test free agency. The deadline is functionally worthless once it passes—it doesn't make the Cardinals more or less likely to pony up afterward, and it doesn't do anything to quiet reporters and their sources. I don't know how likely either situation is, but stories like this one skip a logical step. 

By doing it, the insider information is colored by what comes after it—the unsourced list of teams and the speculation about contracts and good and bad situations and other first basemen all combine to give the actual kernel of new information dimensions and gravity it hasn't earned. 

It works the other way, too—the rest of it is colored by Heyman's initial claim of access. From the second paragraph forward all information in this particular piece could be gleaned from unnamed Viva El Birdos commenters. The Competing Executive has long been one of my least favorite sportswriting sources—he's nothing but another speculator, who has access to the same information we do and is often less interested in analyzing it. 

In the absence of contradicting sources Heyman's guy is probably right—but the conclusions drawn from these sources have lately been overdrawn from the resources they appear to be providing.

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