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Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Watch Your Language!

On Wednesday evening Sportsnet put up one of the saddest rumour posts I think I’ve ever seen.

Report: Blue Jays among ‘potential fits’ for Pirates’ Josh Harrison

Now, I can’t exactly begrudge the folks over there for having figured out to not just let jerks like me reap all the pageviews available out there for anyone willing to make content out of barely-newsworthy tweets, or out of some supposed insider’s meaningless radio pontifications. But I can begrudge them doing so without any panache, or, more importantly, without  any attempt to actually parse the language being used.

Just so we’re clear, none of this is on the anonymous “Sportsnet Staff” member who authored the piece. The problem here is structural. By their own conventions, Sportsnet played this one straight, which is totally and completely fucking absurd.

“The Toronto Blue Jays are reportedly among teams who could be a ‘potential fit’ for Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison,” begins the piece. It then quotes the source for this statement, a tweet from Jon Heyman.

So, according to Heyman, the Jays are “among potential fits” for Harrison. With that being the sum total of information given, we can only conclude that this is based solely on what Heyman thinks. What he figures. What he guesses. And while there are reasons to think that he might not be wrong on this — the Jays have been clear about wanting a middle infield upgrade (even after adding Aledmys Diaz), and there have been stronger reports linking them to similar players, and maybe even to Harrison himself — why should we care? Or, more importantly, why is it being presented like this?

Whether he’s right or wrong, this isn’t Heyman “reporting” the Jays are looking specifically at Harrison, or that the two sides are engaged in trade talks, or that there’s anything here at all. There might be! But the only thing even close to concrete he’s telling us is that Harrison is being “talked about.”

That’s fine — Jon is allowed to tweet his opinion on which available players might fit where. But the thing is, Heyman isn’t always so nebulous. Take, for example, the tweet he sent immediately before the one about the Jays and Harrison:

Now this right here is concrete. It’s unequivocal. The Giants and Reds are talking about Billy Hamilton. The two sides remain apart. The Giants don’t want to trade Ramos. And the Giants are reluctant to worsen a system that already isn’t great.

It isn’t that the Giants “potentially” don’t want to trade Ramos and are “likely” hindered by their so-so system. It’s not that the Hamilton is being “talked about” in a general sense, or that the Giants “have been linked” to him. Heyman here is actually reporting these things. He’s saying they’re true. (In the previous tweet he’s saying that the Jays being a “potential fit” is also true, which it is, it’s just not news — it’s a “story” that could be written every day about countless players and every single team in the league.) A post about his Giants-Reds tweet deserves the word “report” in front of it. A post about that tweet, if you cover either of those teams, is a worthwhile endeavour.

More than that, as the tweet indicates, if there’s something he can be concrete about, Heyman will be concrete about it. So when he lacks for specifics about Harrison, other than the fact that he “is being talked about,” that’s something we very much have to consider as we consume this information.

Even two days later, here on Friday, in a piece on the subject at FanRag, all he could give us is this:

While Pittsburgh Pirates stars such as Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen are grabbing most of the headlines so far, Josh Harrison is becoming popular on the trade market, and word is that if the team is rebuilding, he’d welcome a deal.

The New York Yankees, New York Mets, Toronto Blue Jays and Colorado Rockies have been tied to Harrison to this point, but with his versatility and contract situation (a year to go), he’d work for many more teams than that.

Have been tied to. As in, people have seen Harrison “talked about” and mused about which clubs might be “potential fits”?

If Heyman could report anything more strongly about it than that, the assumption has to be that he would. That he hasn’t means that Sportsnet’s title is wholly misleading. What Heyman has “reported” is that Harrison “is being talked about.” What he’s speculated on is that the Jays are “among potential fits.”

Oddly, there is more concrete information on the Jays and their potential interest in Harrison, and it comes to us the very last sentence of the Sportsnet piece:

An earlier report from Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune said the Blue Jays are among “a handful of other clubs” who have contacted the Pirates about Harrison.

That is your story — I mean, it’s barely one (teams contact other teams about players all the time), but it’s at least something. That Heyman happens to have noticed that the Jays might be a potential fit — that anyone has noticed such a thing — doesn’t really rise to the standard of “news.” He’s probably not wrong, but when Sportsnet is passing that on under the word “report” in a piece with the veneer of news, less engaged readers are going to end up getting confused and missing the total lack of gravity here. (Not to mention, a bunch of people, seeing me tweet about this being a sad excuse for a rumour are going to come back at me wondering what it is I have against Harrison — which has nothing to do with the thing I’m actually complaining about!)

Am I surprised at this from a website that regularly posts things like “Morosi: It would be surprising if Brett Lawrie returns to Blue Jays” (no shit, Sherlock!) as though they’re kinda-sorta news? Not really. But I still think we should expect better — and beyond that, we should strive to all possess the tools to separate the pointless bullshit from the bullshitty bullshit from the bullshit from the kernels of truth worth contemplating here in the absence of literally a single goddamn transaction to talk about.