Winter is baseball's silly season, filled with silly trade and free agent rumors even from reputable sources. But sometimes those sources are not-so-reputable. Sometimes they don't even exist. Like KCNBC's own John Allen.
John Allen's Twitter account is gone now, but for the past week, he's been sharing rumors and passing along news like any MLB reporter with inside sources during the hot stove season. He spoke with authority, and cited GMs and executives on player movement and teams' plans. He built a following that eventually peaked at a couple thousand, but he didn't truly blow up until Monday afternoon when he tweeted this.
Tim Hudson did eventually sign a two-year, $23-million deal with San Francisco. That news, and those figures, had been reported by a few people in the Bay Area—Allen wasn't first, and he was just passing along reporters' actual information without attribution. But when Fox's Ken Rosenthal reported Hudson's deal later that afternoon, he cited Allen.
John Allen was on the national radar now, and that was his undoing. Simultaneously, a number of fans and bloggers in the Bay Area learned of Allen, and realized they hadn't heard of him. Along with one Kansas City blogger, who first noticed Allen last week when he reported on a possible Pablo Sandoval-to-the-Royals trade, they started poking around.
The unraveling is comprehensively chronicled by Steve Berman on his Bay Area Sports Guy blog, and by Mike Engel on his own site. The first red flag was "KCNBC"—it sounds like call letters, but is too long. He has no Google trail beyond the last week, when his tweets started getting cited by the likes of The Score and SBNation.
But here's the dagger. A Google image search for the headshot used in John Allen's profile turns up the Facebook page for one Cameron Baird, who works at a retail brokerage firm in Northern California.
Fake rumormongers are a dime a dozen. "Hockeyy Insiderr" still pretends to be a plugged-in ex-NHL player, despite all evidence pointing to him being a a Québécois teenager. But rarely has the unmasking been so swift and merciless that the hoaxer was forced to delete his account within hours, as John Allen did.
So: Who's the perpetrator? There's rarely a satisfactory conclusion to these hoaxes, but earlier today, a person claiming to be behind the John Allen Twitter account attempted to come clean. The simple explanation? A school project gone wrong.
On the newly created Blogspot page "Who Is John Allen," the author (and we obviously have no idea if this is legit, or some bizarre double-catfishing) writes:
This account was not days old, as some believed, but years. It was a basketball parody account I created in high school and had since abandoned. Through the years, the account racked up over 2,000 followers. I am in college now and needed an idea for a final. I will not say where I am going to college or what class this final was for. With baseball free agency started, my partner and I decided we had an opportunity to Catfish a large group of people by breaking news regarding Robinson Cano.
Our intent was to see what type of reaction we could elicit. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, the project never got that far.
When Rosenthal credited Allen with the Hudson news, we were blown away. This news didn't come from us. In fact, we found 5 different sources (all in the Bay Area) that had the information either before Allen or at the same time. Each of these sources were baseball blogs.
Ever notice that when news breaks, its the same people that break it? Not the same names, but the same "PEOPLE". News types. Ken Rosenthal did not want to credit a blogger with scooping him. Rosenthal would never admit to it, but I'm sure he would consider there to be egg on his face if a blogger scooped him.
Why did Rosenthal credit Allen?
Hey, a call sign! That guy definitely went to college. He's on television! Well, that or radio.....I think....because Rosenthal sure as hell doesn't know anyone named John Allen at KCNBC. That person does not exist.
But there's more. The person claiming to be the person behind John Allen promises future posts sharing messages he received from actual, credentialed writers, all apparently credulous. The next entry will supposedly consist of "direct messages from writers asking for our sources, asking for information, and requesting meetings at the upcoming baseball meetings."
KCNBC's John Allen isn't dead yet.