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Alleged Hack Of Astros Database Included Player Information

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And we're going to hear more now about this alleged baseball hack. I'm joined by longtime baseball writer, Richard Justice. He is a columnist for mlb.com.

Richard, welcome to the program.

RICHARD JUSTICE: Thank you, Melissa.

BLOCK: And you're joining us from Houston. What's the reaction been to these allegations there today?

JUSTICE: (Laughter). The reaction has been just - it's amazing how the world has turned. Two years ago, no one wanted the Astros' information - or three years ago. They averaged 104 losses the last four years. Now they're in first place and suddenly, everyone wants to break into their computers. I think that's the fans' general reaction. And I think we're in such the early stages of it that people quite don't understand what's happening here.

BLOCK: Well, let's talk about a key character here. It seems to be former top exec with the Cardinals, Jeff Luhnow. He left the Cardinals to join the Astros. He's their general manager. And the assumption is that this hack was an act of revenge after he left, right?

JUSTICE: Yeah, and the irony of this is that it's - Cardinals owner, Bill DeWitt, Jr., who was looking for a better way to do things, that his son had known Jeff from the corporate world and brought Jeff to the Cardinals in 2003, and he had a string of great drafts there. He impressed so many people in baseball that when a guy named Jim Crane here in Houston bought the Astros, Jeff Luhnow was his first hire. And he said, hey, I want you to tear it down and start over and build a great team. But Jeff had a way of doing things. Clearly, he rubbed some people the wrong way in St. Louis. And it appears to be a - maybe a guy that maybe didn't know that he was breaking a federal law and just wanted to monkey around with Jeff, but it has become serious. In the old days, baseball scouts would get one other drunk and try to steal their secrets. That wasn't a violation of federal law.

BLOCK: This is a whole new thing. Jeff Luhnow, we should say, is a data-driven manager, right, a money ball guy?

JUSTICE: Yes, the Astros have - and he has hired, for instance, a rocket science - a guy who spends his spare time doing algorithms.

BLOCK: Literally a rocket scientist.

JUSTICE: Yes, that guy, Sig Mejdal, came from the Cardinals, as a matter of fact. He has the Google rule in the front office that you can spend 10 percent of your time thinking outside the box just thinking of ways to make us better. It's kind of a great experiment they're doing here, all in with the analytics. And, you know, there are people in baseball that still adhere to the traditional role of scouts and you got to see a player to evaluate him. And they frankly hope Jeff fails, but so far, he's been a smashing success.

BLOCK: Well, any sense, Richard, of what kind of information these alleged hackers would've gotten from this database?

JUSTICE: Yeah. That's the part that's going to make you laugh. If it wasn't the...

BLOCK: I'm already laughing. (Laughter).

JUSTICE: ...Yeah, it wasn't the real propriety information, as far as we know. The Astros had internal message boards where they posted notes from trade discussions. For instance, you call the Baltimore Orioles - we want player X. Would you take player Y? No, we won't do that.

And they would post it on an internal message board. It was really just notes, nothing that Jeff couldn't keep in his pocket. In fact, the day the story broke that someone had gotten into the message board and gotten it out, Jeff said, you know what? I'm going to use a pencil and paper today.

BLOCK: And just briefly, Richard, I'm going to run the Deadspin headline by you on this case that I just love. It goes like this. "Everyone Involved In The Cardinals Hacking Scandal Seems To Be An Idiot."

JUSTICE: (Laughter). Well, you know, the idiot part of it is, did you not know you were leaving a digital footprint? Did you not know this would be the easiest thing in the world to track?

BLOCK: All right. Richard Justice, columnist with mlb.com, thanks so much.

JUSTICE: Thanks, Melissa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.