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.

There was another miscommunication between the Phillies and Pat Neshek

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Back in June 2017, then-manager of the Phillies Pete Mackanin and reliever Pat Neshek had some miscommunication. In a series against the Cardinals, Neshek worked a five-pitch eighth inning and it was believed he would come back out for the ninth inning, but he never did. Mackanin said Neshek said he didn’t want to pitch another inning. Neshek said he was never asked. There was also some miscommunication the game prior. Neshek thought he had the day off; Mackanin said Neshek said he wasn’t available to pitch.

Mackanin is no longer the Phillies’ manager, but the miscommunication between Neshek and the team apparently persist. Neshek was notably absent during the Phillies’ hard-fought 5-4 win over the Cubs on Monday night. The game featured a struggling Seranthony Domínguez pitching two innings, yielding three crucial runs in his second inning of work.

Manager Gabe Kapler called the bullpen and instructed Neshek to begin warming up to prepare to face Albert Almora, Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Kapler rang the bullpen after Domínguez walked Jason Heyward, who batted ahead of Almora. Neshek wasn’t warmed up yet. Domínguez was able to retire Almora on a sacrifice bunt, which was reviewed and gave Neshek some extra time to get ready. He was ready for the next batter, Daniel Descalso, but at this point Kapler no longer wanted to bring Neshek into the game. Descalso lined a triple to left-center field, scoring two runs and came home himself when shortstop Jean Segura‘s throw caromed off of his foot out of play.

Recounting the situation, Neshek said, “I got on the mound and threw two pitches. [Kapler] said, ‘Is he ready?’ And I said, ‘No. I’m not ready yet. I’ve thrown two pitches.” Neshek was asked how long it takes him to get ready. The veteran said, “A minute. Not 20 seconds. I’m, like, the best in the league at getting ready. My whole career has been coming in like that.”

The Phillies were able to eke out a 5-4 win. Had they lost the game, Kapler and Neshek would likely have been under the microscope for the awkward situation leading to a crushing defeat. Kapler drew plenty of criticism over his bullpen management last year in his rookie managerial season. That included bringing in lefty reliever Hoby Milner into a game in which he hadn’t yet warmed up.

Maybe it’s just a coincidence that the manager who struggled with bullpen management last year nearly mucked up a win last night, and maybe it’s just a coincidence that a reliever who’s had prior issues with communication had another communication mix-up. Maybe it’s not. It’s worth noting that the Phillies needed three innings from the bullpen to protect a 2-1 lead over the Cubs on Tuesday. Kapler called on rookie Edgar Garcia for two outs, lefty José Álvarez for four, and then brought in Juan Nicasio to close things out in the ninth. No Neshek, even as Nicasio got into trouble. Nicasio would surrender the tying and go-ahead runs, resulting in a deflating 3-2 loss.