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Butterfly Effect
2004-01-24 08:26
by Will Carroll

This post has nothing to do with Ashton Kutcher.

With that out of the way, I take this short pause from editing the edited version of the STP manuscript - I haven't seen this much red ink since the last Enron balance sheet - to discuss something I discussed on the radio in Minnesota yesterday.

Sometimes, the media covers a story and alters it irrevocably. The same can be true of anything from public reaction to additional information entering a decision. Without going too deeply into decision or chaos theory, any action will change the information present in a transaction, perhaps altering the outcome. An example is the reported signing of a player. Let's use Vlad Guerrero as an example. At the Winter Meetings, I reported that Vlad would sign with the Orioles on a 5/60 contract similar to Miguel Tejada. The Orioles felt they had the deal locked up, told people who leaked it to me, but the delay in getting the mechanics of the deal worked out allowed teams to reassess. "Vlad at that price?" said many. "I can do better than that!" Some tried, like the Mets, to structure something based on a percieved reluctance by Guerrero to head to Charm City. Others noted the price was lower than expected, assessed their finances, and went for it. Ultimately, the Angels - a team that had not considered bidding until hearing the Orioles offer - ended up with the prize.

Almost any news item in baseball can alter the outcome. Just because a trade doesn't happen or a signing doesn't materialize doesn't make the initial information false. There *are* mistakes - people leak false info, info is translated incorrectly, or facts aren't known that would bear on the situation. As a journalist, you use trust, experience, and judgement to try to understand how the information you have gained will come to pass. New information - like the butterfly causing a tornado - changes everything.

People often ask me how many times I'm wrong. I try not to get defensive, but like anyone, I don't like being reminded of my mistakes. There is, however, a major difference between being wrong and circumstances changing.

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