The best way to get through a week like this, potholed as it is with misinformation and rumor, is to take everything that you hear or read and realize that, in the end, maybe 10 percent of it will come true. And with so much plant food being shoveled around out there in the week before baseball's trade deadline, 10 percent might be a little high.
Alfonso Soriano's going ... everywhere. Or maybe he's staying with the Nationals. A-Rod's on the block. Or not. Bobby Abreu is either the first choice for the Yankees or somewhere in the teens. It's hard to tell.
Dontrelle Willis has gone from the most coveted pitcher on the market, a young talent on a terrible team, to a trade afterthought on one of the better young teams in the game. And he hasn't moved an inch.
What do you believe? How much can you believe?
"None, pretty much," says Willis, who by all indications looks like he's staying put with the Marlins. "I'm just going by my experience. I hear 'New York, New York' and then all of a sudden it's 'Arizona.' I mean, you can't get more opposite than that, geographically and everything. Now I hear less about me than when I was 1-6. So you never know."
Still, with all the jabbering going on out there -- in fact, in large part because of it -- this has turned into a great time of year for baseball. One of the best.
The game, even without all the talk, already is in pretty good shape. Every team with at least a clue of how to do business still has a chance at a postseason spot, and that's with almost two thirds of the season gone. Attendance has never been higher -- more than 45 million already. Television ratings are strong. A new long-term, multimillion-dollar TV contract was just approved. Commissioner Bud Selig said the other day that the game will pull in more than $5 billion in gross revenues in 2006. Interest in baseball, it can be argued, is at an all-time high.
That's never been more evident than it is right now, in the frenzy surrounding the July 31 trading deadline. Every sports radio talk show, every broadcast of a game, every sports section of the local paper, every Internet site that touches at all on baseball is all over any scent of a deal that may take place between now and the deadline.
And 90 percent of what we hear and read this time of year is unadulterated hooey.
It's great, isn't it?
"Lemme see ...," says Stan Kasten, the president of the Nationals, one of the few teams not in the playoff chase this year and -- this is how it works in baseball -- one of the most in-the-news teams before the deadline. "Talk about steroids, or talk about trades? I mean, I hate to keep hitting people over the heads with this, but this is the entertainment industry."
Nothing, for a lot of baseball fans, is more entertaining than tossing around a billion possibilities at the trade deadline. It's the entire winter's Hot Stove League jammed into the few weeks before the pennant races.
But how does a fan determine what trade talk is just talk and what could turn into trade truth?