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.