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Some initial thoughts about the Astros’ security breach

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Some random observations about the Houston Astros getting hacked:

Several people on Twitter brought up the notion that Deadspin (and then us and everyone else who followed-on) publicizing this hack sends some sort of bad signal or represents some sort of moral hazard or something given that the underling information was proprietary.

Sorry, not buying it.

The hack itself was wrong and probably illegal. The information itself is newsworthy. It’s far, far, far (x1000) less important than, say, the BALCO grand jury testimony being leaked, but it’s still stuff — based on people’s gobbling up of any and all info related to trade rumors and the hot stove season — that people want to know. The existence of an audience for this stuff has long been a given. Indeed, a good chunk of all the sports media industry is based on obtaining the inside scoop for fans hungry for any and all of the dirt. The Astros’ information being spread around today doesn’t change the existing incentive structure. It still requires someone to go out and break the law to get it in this manner. Thus far, people’s priorities — however whack they may sometimes be — have been reasonable enough that we’re content to wait for Heyman or Rosenthal to get the dirt via a telephone call than for someone to go all Mission: Impossible on teams’ networks.

Some other people are suggesting that the Astros may pay a price in their dealings with potential trade partners now that they have allowed their communications to be compromised. Eh, not buying that either. Every team has similar internal discussions about trades. That the Astros said X or Y after a phone call with the Red Sox and then ended up doing Z with the Orioles is just part of the business. The only way this is a problem for Houston is if this is seen as some sort of chronic, unsolvable breach. Which I’m guessing it’s not. The system itself has a futuristically advanced sounding name — Ground Control — but it’s just a notes database as far as most of us are concerned. It would probably take a very, very short time for the Astros to shore up security, assuming they haven’t already. Which probably isn’t a safe assumption.

But seriously, Astros:

Finally, I’ll start the odds on “grouchy anti-sabermetric columnist penning a column in the next week in which he crows something like ‘the Astros live by the new-fangled computery stats, they die by the new-fangled computery stats!” at 3-1. Any reference to this never happening if Ed Wade still ran the team — you can’t hack the back of a cocktail napkin, after all! — puts it at 4-1.

All in all: I think this is a story that will, going forward, be about who broke into the Astros’ system and what happens to them. Not one about general ethics, the Astros’ organizational philosophies or computer data at large. At least it shouldn’t be. And I hope it isn’t.

Reds sign Ryan Raburn to minor league deal

DENVER, COLORADO - APRIL 10:  Ryan Raburn #6 of the Colorado Rockies rounds the bases on his solo home run off of James Shields #33 of the San Diego Padres to take a 4-2 lead in the seventh inning on April 10, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies defeated the Padres 6-3.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Veteran infielder/outfielder Ryan Raburn has a minor league contract with the Reds, the club announced on Sunday. The deal was reported last week, but had been pending a physical. It includes an invitation to spring training, where Raburn is expected to compete against Desmond Jennings for a major league utility role. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer’s C. Trent Rosecrans, there’s a $900,000 base salary waiting for him if he makes the big league roster by Opening Day.

Raburn, 35, is coming off of a down year with the Rockies in 2016. He slashed .220/.309/.404 for the team last season, clubbing nine home runs as he struggled to stay above the Mendoza line. Raburn was stationed in left field for much of the season, but also saw some time at DH, first base and right field toward the end of the year. Assuming he can turn out a production rate that skews closer to the .301 average and .936 OPS he put up with the Indians in 2015, however, the Reds should have little trouble finding a place for him off the bench or as a platoon option with Scott Schebler in right field.

Dexter Fowler unhappy with President Trump’s attempts to institute a travel ban

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 01:  Dexter Fowler #24 of the Chicago Cubs looks on during the first inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Six of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 1, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Mark Saxon reports that new Cardinals outfielder Dexter Fowler isn’t a fan of President Trump’s ongoing effort to institute a travel ban. Trump signed Executive Order 13769 on January 27, 2017, which limited incoming travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. However, a temporary restraining order was placed by Judge James L. Robart following Washington v. Trump.

Fowler’s wife was born in Iran. Fowler said that her sister delayed her return from a business trip to Qatar to avoid potentially being detained. Fowler and his wife have also delayed traveling to visit her relatives in Iran.

Fowler said, “It’s huge. Especially any time you’re not able to see family, it’s unfortunate.”

The response by Cardinals fans was predictably terrible. Via the BestFansStLouis Twitter account:

One of the commenters wrote, “He signed a contract with the Cardinals so that makes him property of stl cardinals and mlb so he needs to keep his mouth shut. His personal opinions, problems, beliefs and political views should be kept to himself as long as he’s under a mlb contract…” He continued, “It’s not our fault he married someone from another country.”

Fowler caught wind of this and other responses to his statement, so he tweeted:

Fowler, of course, is one thousand percent correct.

These same “stick to sports,” “keep your politics out of my sports” people either said nothing or cheered when athletes and coaches espoused political views from the other side of the spectrum. Like when Patriots quarterback Tom Brady hung a “Make America Great Again” hat in his locker. Or when reliever Jonathan Papelbon played a pro-Trump song in the clubhouse. Or when former NFL head coach and ESPN commentator Mike Ditka said last year, “Obama’s the worst president we’ve ever had.”

Even Saxon and Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch have received myriad “stick to sports” comments simply for acknowledging that Fowler made a comment on the matter.

As we’ve pointed out here countless times, it is impossible to separate sports from politics. It is irresponsible to pretend like it’s even possible. Sports and politics intersect in so many ways, including race, religion, gender, sexuality, and class. This particular situation with Trump’s executive order impacts baseball quite a bit as Fowler’s individual situation shows. He’s certainly not the only player to have a loved one who came from one of the seven aforementioned countries. Non-white players are also much more likely to have a bad experience at the airport — consider how often players are at the airport during the season — and their family and friends may be subject to one of the many ugly ICE raids that have taken place over the last three weeks.

Kudos to Fowler for speaking up and kudos for Saxon and others for reporting on it. This is certainly not a time during which we should pretend we can keep sports and politics separate.