Stolen signs: Is Cardinals cyber hacking overblown news?

06/22/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak

Stealing signs has been a part of baseball as long as, well, since signs were a part of baseball. But cyber hacking into another professional teams player data base? Well that's definitely a new way of stealing signs. But the big news out of Major League Baseball in the past week was that the FBI was investigating the St. Louis Cardinals for allegedly hacking into the Houston Astros player personnel data base.
The Federal investigation into the alleged incident is expected to be wrapping up soon. But the results of that investigation may not be as shocking as the title "Major League Baseball Cyber Attack" makes it sound. Cardinals Chairman Bill DeWitt said the team is still investigating the matter, but that likely only a few people were involved. DeWitt also stated that none of the team's high ranking officials are being implicated in the investigation. DeWitt said he had no prior knowledge of the matter prior to the FBI investigation, and called the whole thing "a shame".
The connection between the Cardinals and the Astros is former St. Louis executive and current Houston GM Jeff Luhnow. Luhnow worked for the Cardinals between 2003 and 2011, when he moved on to the Astros following that season. St. Louis uses a data base called Redbird, that Luhnow worked with while employed by the team. The Astros use a similar data base, called Ground Control that Luhnow created. Some of the theories that have been floated so far have been that Luhnow used the same passwords for the Astros data base that he did in St. Louis, which made the system easily accessible for hackers. Another theory was that the hacking was revenge or some sort of vengeance against Luhnow for leaving the Cardinals organization. DeWitt has already stated that there is no ill will towards Luhnow from anyone in the organization that he knows of. Luhnow has also stated that he remains on good terms with the Cardinals.

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Here's the thing though...this all is very overblown and doesn't really make any sense. To start, why would the Cardinals be hacking the Astros for anything player personnel related? How would St. Louis gain any advantage through this? The Cardinals have the best record in MLB so far this season. Since Luhnow left, the Cardinals have won 2 division titles, been to 1 World Series, and were 64 games over .500 from 2012 through 2014. The Astros, well, they've finished dead last 2 of the those 3 seasons and have compiled an overall record of 176 wins and 310 losses. If anyone should be hacking, shouldn't the Astros be hacking the Cardinals?
There's also a chance that no stealing of any information was a part of this. The FBI investigation has tracked the hacking to a house in Juniper, Florida that was used by Cardinals employees during spring training. The problem is, quite a few different employees used the house, so pinpointing who is responsible isn't going to be easy either. But more than likely, it seems that those involved may have tried their skills at hacking through a use of potential passwords that Luhnow may have used in St. Louis that he could've been using in Houston. They may have just been trying to see if they could do it. It's doubtful these are any cyber terrorists or had any desire to cause a federal probe. Maybe they were just trying to make Luhnow look foolish by stealing his passwords and hacking into his system?
All in all, this seems to be a situation that's become rather overblown. It's doubtful that any kind of major implications will arise from this. Those responsible for it are low level team employees, and the biggest punishment that will come of this is those responsible will be terminated.
No truth to the rumor though that the New England Patriots have requested permission to speak to those involved for future employment in Foxboro.

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