From Mark McGwire to Jim Edmonds to Albert Pujols and that God-awful “we are the best in baseball because we do everything right just like the Lord asked of us” fan base, St. Louis has tortured my baseball fandom since I was a small child. It’s a form of abuse not recognized by our court systems, but just as traumatizing as many other forms of bullying.
Cut to a beautiful story of corporate espionage at the Major League Baseball level. Cardinals officials are accused of hacking into an internal database belonging to the inferior Houston Astros, compromising internal communications including trade discussions, scouting reports, and proprietary statistics.
From The New York Times:
The F.B.I. and Justice Department prosecutors are investigating front-office officials for the St. Louis Cardinals, one of the most successful teams in baseball over the past two decades, for hacking into the internal networks of a rival team to steal closely guarded information about player personnel.
Investigators have uncovered evidence that Cardinals officials broke into a network of the Houston Astros that housed special databases the team had built, according to law enforcement officials. Internal discussions about trades, proprietary statistics and scouting reports were compromised, the officials said.
The officials did not say which employees were the focus of the investigation or whether the team’s highest-ranking officials were aware of the hacking or authorized it. The investigation is being led by the F.B.I.’s Houston field office and has progressed to the point that subpoenas have been served on the Cardinals and Major League Baseball for electronic correspondence.
Why did the Cardinals feel it was necessary to hack information on one of the most putrid, laughable franchises of the early 2010s? Outside of its thriving farm system, the reason St. Louis officials went after the Astros is a story of spite and retribution on a former employee.
Law enforcement officials believe the hacking was executed by vengeful front-office employees for the Cardinals hoping to wreak havoc on the work of Jeff Luhnow, the Astros’ general manager who had been a successful and polarizing executive with the Cardinals until 2011.
From 1994 to 2012, the Astros and the Cardinals were division rivals, in the National League. For a part of that time, Mr. Luhnow was a Cardinals executive, primarily handling scouting and player development. One of many innovative thinkers drawn to the sport by the “Moneyball” phenomenon, he was credited with building baseball’s best minor league system, as well as drafting several players who would become linchpins of the Cardinals’ 2011 World Series-winning team.
Under Mr. Luhnow, the Astros have accomplished a striking turnaround; they are in first place in the American League West division. But in 2013, before their revival at the major league level, their internal deliberations about statistics and players were compromised, law enforcement officials said.
The Cardinals didn’t even hack the database in a cool, sophisticated way. Luhnow had built an internal database as a Cardinals executive, and St. Louis officials examined a master list of passwords from that database and then used them to breach Luhnow’s new system in Houston. Concerned that the team’s private information wasn’t secure, the Astros contacted the F.B.I. about an outside hacker, who traced an unauthorized access back to a house that was lived in by Cardinals officials. Case closed.
If you’re a Major League Baseball fan, and congratulations if you identify as one because you are a member of a dying breed, this story is perfect in so many ways. St. Louis is the Notre Dame of Major League Baseball, priding itself on doing things “the right way” and filling the stadium with a cluster of white, middle-class Catholics.
You can’t just be a Cardinals fan. You have to earn it. On the surface, it doesn’t make any sense. St. Louis is like a middle-tier fraternity at a big state school. Its blandness outweighs its charm. It doesn’t offer anybody outside of the house anything particularly special, but the amount of pride its members show about belonging to it is overwhelmingly nauseating. It’s a lame party that you’re not invited to even though you never wanted to go.
Cardinals fans aren’t out to spite your team like Dallas Cowboys fans. They are there to subtly jab you in the side in a seemingly harmless way when you aren’t expecting it. It sucks because they are actually good fans in a not-awful place, loyal to a consistently good baseball team. They are living the life that die-hard fans of shitty teams crave.
That’s why the baseball gods had to let this happen. Nobody in the sports world deserves to go unpunished. Grab your popcorn; this story will only get better.
Who said baseball wasn’t exciting anymore?.
[via New York Times]
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