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Baseball shows social media out of control

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Column by Jim Clark

Social media is a phenomenon sweeping the country, and has done so for several years. In many ways, it has had a negative effect on people in this country, especially the young.
Some teen-agers would rather text or tweet their friends, although they may be sitting about 10 feet away. The art of conversation has been lost by many.
But a more dangerous aspect of social media is that many things on there are posted without verification. That can cause unsubstantiated rumors to take on an air of credibility, even when they are not true.
Some in the younger generation use Twitter and Facebook, and other such programs, to get all their news. Reading a newspaper or even watching network news is out of the question. Takes too much time, they say. They all seem to operate on the philosophy that “If I see it on the Internet, it must be true.”
A stark example of this untruth occurred last week in, of all places, Citi Field, the home of the New York Mets.
Two respected reporters tweeted about the third inning that the Mets were trading infielder Wilmer Flores, who was playing shortstop at the time, and injured pitcher Zack Wheeler to the Milwaukee Brewers for power hitting Carlos Gomez. The Mets’ TV announcers repeated the tweets, and soon the entire ballpark was aware of it … except those in the Mets dugout, where social media isn’t allowed during a game.
Mets captain David Wright, recovering from a spine injury, went down into the clubhouse during the game and heard the report. He came back and quietly told a shocked manager Terry Collins, who, if the trade were finalized, would have to pull Flores from the game. But he hadn’t heard anything.
As Flores came out of the dugout in the seventh inning to bat, one fan yelled, “Good luck in Milwaukee,” and mentioned the trade. The fans gave a shocked Flores a standing ovation.
In the eighth as Flores went out to shortstop, camera closeups showed he had been crying. He had spent seven years in the Mets organization, signing when he was 16. He didn’t want to leave and hadn’t been told anything officially.
As soon as the game ended, the general manager, Sandy Alderson, announced that the trade had fallen through, possibly because of health concerns about Gomez. He also said, “Social media kind of jumped the gun.”
And that’s the problem. Things are placed on social media without verification. In this case it worked out for the best, because Flores became sort of a folk hero for showing he cared, and two nights later hit a game-winning home run in the 12th inning after the trade deadline passed.
The hero status didn’t wane. Sunday night, even with the Mets comfortably ahead, he hit a pinch-hit double in the eighth inning and got another standing ovation.
By the way, the other figure in the trade, Wheeler, who is recovering elsewhere, called the GM and asked not to be traded. You can bet when he gets healthy he’ll be treated as a hero, too.
The event showed the human side of baseball that can affect the players and their families, and particularly the young. In this case, responsible social media postings would have prevented an emotional meltdown of a young man who obviously loves playing in New York.
So the next time you hear someone say, “Somebody just tweeted something … what a major story,” ask what the verification is. You’ll probably get a blank look, but eventually some people will learn that just because you read it on Twitter doesn’t mean it’s true.
And if you don’t believe me, watch the Mets play the Marlins and Rays this week, and keep an eye on Wilmer Flores. He’ll be the one still wearing No. 4 for the Mets.
Jim Clark is the editor of the West Marion Messenger and South Marion Citizen, and has been a Mets fan since 1962.