Anatomy of conflicting trade rumors: Adam Dunn edition

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Like I said an hour ago, trade rumors lend themselves to all kinds of mischief. Who is doing the leaking? What do they have to gain and lose by a piece of information floating out there? How near — or far — from the real decision makers are the sources whispering in the reporter’s ear? The answers to these questions can change a piece of news to a rumor to something close to utter baloney in five minutes. A great example: the Adam Dunn rumors.

The Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley continues to report that the White Sox are all over Adam Dunn, saying just yesterday that the Nats and White Sox have exchanged names and are champing at the bit to make a deal.  Meanwhile, MLB.com’s Nats’ reporter, Bill Ladson, tweeted just a few short minutes ago that there “is nothing to” the Cowley report and that GM Mike Rizzo never talked to White Sox GM Kenny Williams
about Adam Dunn.”

Oh noes! Conflicting information! What’s a poor baseball fan to think!

You gotta parse this stuff.  You can start by noting that a White Sox source would have less reason to lie about the Sox and the Nats talking about Dunn, because if the deal doesn’t happen he has dashed the hopes of a lot of excitable fans who want the team to get a bat. In contrast, you have to think that a Nats’ source would not want a rumor about a fire-sale-quality trade like giving up Adam Dunn floating around out there until the last possible minute.  It could demoralize fans and anger the subject of the trade (who’s on record saying he doesn’t want to go be a DH, by the way).

Sure, there are counterarguments to each of those things — maybe the Chisox guy wants to create the illusion of action and the Nats guy would love to leak something about Dunn to cater to prospect hounds — but that’s the way I see it.

The giveaway, though, is Ladson’s subtle but rather significant qualification. Let me highlight it:  “MIKE RIZZO never talked to KENNY WILLIAMS about Adam Dunn.” Is it not possible that, say, the assistant GMs talked? Or that Nats’ President Stan Kasten talked to Williams? Or that, rather than talked, they exchanged emails or texts or telegrams or something?

It just seems like an oddly specific way to put that. It’s as if he was actually told the Williams/Rizzo thing in those exact words by someone with a need to be technically truthful but kinda cute. Reporters generally don’t operate on that level so I’m guessing Ladson didn’t create the odd construction. Front offices do, though, and I bet they did. After all of that, I come away thinking that there’s a lot of truth to the Adam Dunn to the White Sox buzz.  Maybe a trade happens, maybe it doesn’t, but I think there’s some fire there to go with that smoke.

I try to do this with every set of rumors I read. Sometimes there’s just no room to parse: you have directly conflicting reports through which no sunlight shines.  Sometimes reports are coming so fast and so furious that there just isn’t time or oxygen to go through the exercise. But a lot of the time you can smell the freshly sliced baloney, and when you can do that, it’s pretty sweet.

The realization, that is.  I’m not a big fan of baloney, let alone its aroma.

Swanson, Olson go deep vs Scherzer, Braves take NL East lead

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ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered off Max Scherzer, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a crucial 4-2 victory Saturday night over the New York Mets and a one-game lead in the NL East.

The defending World Series champions beat aces Jacob deGrom and Scherzer on consecutive nights to take their biggest lead of the season in the division. New York, which held a 10 1/2-game cushion on June 1, faces its biggest deficit of the year with four games remaining.

Atlanta will try for a three-game sweep Sunday night, with the winner earning the season-series tiebreaker between the teams. Even though both teams are headed to the postseason, that’s important because the NL East champion gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Swanson’s 24th homer, a go-ahead, two-run shot in the fifth inning, touched off a frenzy among the sold-out crowd at Truist Park, the ball sailing a few rows up into the seats in left-center to make it 3-2. Olson hit his 32nd homer in the sixth, a solo shot into Chop House seats in right to put Atlanta up 4-2.

Austin Riley led off the fourth with a double and scored on Olson’s single to make it 1-all.

Kyle Wright (21-5) gave up two runs and seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts in five innings as he won his eighth straight decision. The Braves have won 16 of his last 17 starts.

New York went up 2-1 in the fifth when Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil hit consecutive two-out singles.

The Mets led 1-0 in the first when Brandon Nimmo singled, advanced on a walk and a single and scored on Eduardo Escobar‘s groundout. Wright, who threw 30 pitches in the first, stranded two runners in scoring position to prevent further damage.

Scherzer (11-5) allowed a first-inning single to Riley and a third-inning infield single to Ronald Acuna Jr., who advanced to third on a fielding error by Lindor at shortstop but was stranded when Michael Harris II lined out to center. Scherzer patted his glove and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.

Scherzer was charged with nine hits and four runs with no walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings as the Mets were knocked out of first place for only the third day all season.

The Braves have won five of the last six against New York to tie the season series 9-all, outscoring the Mets 37-16 over that stretch.

Atlanta’s bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA in September, got a perfect inning from Dylan Lee in the sixth. Jesse Chavez faced four batters in the seventh, Raisel Iglesias faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 39th save in 46 chances.

Since the Braves were a season low-tying four games under .500 at 23-27 after play on May 31, they have gone 76-32, tying the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors over that span. They were a season-worst 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets on June 1.

Wright, the only 20-game winner in baseball this season, hasn’t officially become the first Braves pitcher to lead the league in wins outright since Russ Ortiz had 21 in 2003, but the Dodgers’ Julio Urias has 17 and can’t reach 20 before the regular season ends.

Wright will become the first Braves pitcher since Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in 2000 to lead the majors in wins. Houston ace Justin Verlander also has 17.

Wright began the game 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in six career starts and one relief appearance against the Mets.

The Braves, who got homers from Riley, Olson and Swanson off deGrom on Friday, lead the NL with 240 homers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. Manager Buck Showalter said Marte is experiencing less pain but not enough to take the next step in his recovery. Marte has been sidelined since Sept. 7.

Braves: RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique. Manager Brian Snitker said there is no timetable for the rookie’s return. Strider has been sidelined since Sept. 21.

NICE GLOVE

Harris ran back and jumped to catch Nimmo’s fly against the wall in center field for the first out of the third.

UP NEXT

Mets RHP Chris Bassitt (15-8, 3.27 ERA) will face RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.29) as the teams conclude a three-game series.