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.

Evan Longoria: “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.