Obviously, I'm not a Cardinals fan. There are many reasons for this, and I feel it is highly justifiable. However, I am a fan of their system in place. In a perfect world, I wish the Cincinnati Reds ran their organization more like the Cardinals. Primarily, that's because I like the idea of the Reds winning compared to the dumpster fire I've seen on the field the past two seasons. However, there is one major difference: if the Reds have to resort to cheating or hacking to get back to the top, I'd rather just watch bad baseball. Winning isn't everything, but your integrity is.
Earlier today, as you may have heard, it is being reported by the New York Times that the St. Louis Cardinals will be facing a hacking inquiry by the FBI. That whoosh and subsequent rumbling you just heard are fans of all the other 29 teams collectively holding their breaths and stamping their feet because they're surprised/excited. Baseball's golden boys, the team that could do no wrong, the innovators of such ridiculous phrases as "The Cardinal Way" and "The Best Fans in Baseball" are in trouble. The hunky-dory, Midwestern, and gritty example how the game is played may have broken a big rule. Thou do not go spying on rivals, especially hacking. The FBI doesn't smile nicely on it, and neither will the MLB.
The world of sports is filled with examples of the fine line between cheating and sportsmanship. Obviously, we have seen this past year with Deflategate, the Browns' Textgate, the Atlanta Falcons pumping fake crowd noise into stadiums, and the long since forgotten, Spygate, that this crap happens. Speaking of which, are there any connections that the slime ball Bill Belichek is involved in this? He is a Cardinals fan and he and La Russa are besties. He's probably a Diamondbacks fan now. Nevertheless, you'll notice the examples I used for misconduct are from the NFL, not the MLB. The MLB is usually cleaner than the NFL, or even the NBA for that matter, as long as we're ignoring steroids.
Major League Baseball has had their problems in the past, mostly with gambling and using some form of PEDs or narcotics to cheat. I don't think the accusation about the Cardinals is near as severe as the Black Sox Scandal or the Pete Rose shenanigans. Those were obvious "integrity of the game" concerns. However, if the Cardinals are guilty of breaking into another team's system to steal pertinent information, this is a huge deal. Compare it to someone breaking into your personal or work email, getting into your online banking, or any other thing you might do over the internet. It is a huge invasion of privacy and something the MLB, FBI, and all the other teams will not take lightly.
This isn't stealing signs from second base, center-field, or the other dugout. This isn't breaking some "unwritten rule". This is knocking down someone's front door and stealing vital personal information. What do I mean about vital personal information? Scouting reports, medical reports, personal player information, notes, etc. Not only is it a breach of the organization's system and information, it could also be a breach of each player's personal security. It isn't anything to sneeze at if this is true.
To be closer to the meat of the problem, we should understand why the Cardinals would want to do this in the first place. If you don't know who Jeff Lunhow is, he used to an executive the Cardinals organization and was in charge of scouting and player development. You know all those players that the Cardinals seem to just recycle and end up being really good players? Yeah, Jeff Lunhow had a big part to play in that. He doesn't get the same level of praise as Theo Epstein, Andrew Freidman, or John Mozeliak get, but he probably should. In 2011, he took the job as the General Manager of the Houston Astros. At the time they were the laughing stock of MLB. Right now, the Astros are 37-28 and leading the AL West. Jeff Lunhow is really good at his job, and the St. Louis Cardinals were not happy at all about losing him.
Obviously, no organization wants to lose the talent of a man such as Lunhow. However, what if they lost something else, or lost some information that Lunhow kept? There are always fears that previous employees will use information against their former employer. The Cardinals had a system that was a treasure in baseball. They created a program called Redbird, which houses all of their baseball operations. When Lunhow left, he had a similar system created in Houston called Ground Control. He also took some St. Louis Cardinal personnel with him to Houston. I bet that burned.
What does Ground Control do? Based on a Bloomberg Business article it takes in a lot of information from the team's statisticians, physicists, doctors, scouts, and coaches. Then, it compares them based on a set of variables and weighs them according to team values. That's pretty nifty and if the Cardinals had something similar, I understand their disdain. However, nothing says Lunhow couldn't create his own program to use as he wanted. We don't know how much play he had in the creation of Redbird, but you are left to believe he played a heavy hand. The only discussion to be had on Lunhow's part is whether or not he took any Cardinal information or technology with him. That would be bad, but it doesn't excuse what the Cardinals are being accused of doing.
The way this hacking is being portrayed is quite elementary. The accusation that a Cardinals employee, or employees, went home and pluged a bunch of Lunhow's usernames and passwords into the system until it worked. That's freaking silly. That's like your mom or dad using the old tried and true "password1234". Regardless of how it was done, someone breached the network. This is known. Last year, an anonymous source even posted Lunhow's trade notes to Deadspin. You can find the article here. By the way, I'm sure that Deadspin is running away with this because they may hate the Cardinals more than anyone else. So, check it out.
All of this is speculation, but with the FBI involved there may be a revelation or action taken sooner rather than later. Seriously, they don't mess around with hacking, it is a very serious offense. However, what could happen to the Cardinals if true? Well, some people could be going to jail. Others could very well lose their jobs. You never know how deep this stuff went into the Cardinal's organization. Did Mozeliak or DeWitt know? Good chance, but there is an even better chance evidence will never shine any incriminating light on them.. Their heads are too big to roll. Your best bet is to see some low level workers lose their jobs, a hefty fine on the organization (one easily paid), and it will tarnish their reputation among the league. There won't be any loss of draft picks, playoff spots, or playing with a short roster. The MLBPA won't allow it. However, I want you think of the last thing I pointed out. The tarnishing of their reputation.
That sounds really sweet to me. The Cardinal Way is crap and smugness at its best. Do I have sour grapes? Yeah, sure. However, I'm just gonna sit back and enjoy this, and hope the Cardinals get whatever they deserve. It will probably be more entertaining than the bad baseball I watch everyday on television. Either way, I'll be watching the Cardinals in the playoffs and not the Reds.