If Arthur C. Clark was correct when he said “Magic’s just science that we don’t understand yet,” then we may be another step closer to understanding the true nature of the sorcery in St. Louis. For years, many have chalked up their sustained success in the face of injuries and defections to various forms of necromancy and legerdemain, but never has there been an explanation.
Well, not outside of the equally inexplicable recurrence of competitive-balance picks the Cards get for being a small market, anyway.
Ah, but that could all be about to change, as Michael S. Schmidt of the New York Times reported earlier today. According to Schmidt, baseball’s paragon of classy virtue is under investigation for reportedly “hack[ing] into the [Houston Astros’] internal networks in order to steal closely guarded information about player personnel.”
This little incident has set the internet ablaze and has spawned roughly eleventy billion jokes (many of which were from me). To no one’s surprise, it’s also flushed more than a few apologists from the woodwork. But let’s make no mistake here folks, this isn’t as simple as data mining or checking through your co-worker’s email.
We are talking here about two large organizations that are part of a multi-billion-dollar corporate structure here. So before you go likening this to peeking at your cube-mate’s digital porn stash, consider that it’s not Rob Manfred’s HR department that’s investigating this. The FBI doesn’t involve itself in inter-office shenanigans.
I suppose this could be little more than some jealous — yes, Cardinals fans, you and your employees are capable of feeling jealous of others — members of the Cards organization acting outside of the behest of their superiors. Maybe the organization as a whole knew nothing of it and had nothing to do with it and has an ironclad alibi.
Even so, this kind of digital espionage is inexcusable given baseball’s increased reliance on data that goes beyond the eyeball tests and 20-80 scales of regional scouts. As teams work to create and perfect proprietary statistics and measurements, their data becomes more and more important in the struggle to field the most competitive team possible.
Again, this is bigger than corked bats, stolen signs, or even Crisco, Bardol, and Vagisil hidden on a pitcher’s person. Those are acts of individual players on the field. Hacking into another team’s internal network is quite another story, particularly if there’s any personal and/or health information for that team’s players contained in that network.
If — and it’s still an if at this point — the Cardinals have even the slightest level of indirect culpability, MLB must act swiftly and harshly to prevent such activity from taking place in the future. This could be a loss of those aforementioned competitive-balance picks or even (gasp!) a postseason ban. Maybe both.
You could blame my own jealousy for coloring my opinion as to potential punishments, but I look again to the changing nature of baseball more than my own fandom to supply support for my suggestions. What we are dealing with is an allegation of theft, pure and simple. Don’t let the fact that it’s technology lessen the seriousness of the accusation; if anything, the nature of the crime makes it more severe.
I’ll give the Cardinals credit though, (if) they committed this act of corporate theft in a very classy manner. They (allegedly) hacked the Astros the right way, and for that they should feel a great deal of pride. But only, you know, if they really did it.
I’d be lying if I said I was not drawing a good deal of sadistic pleasure from knowing the Cardinals are being investigated by the FBI. Add that to the Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup and Kyle Schwarber being called up and you’ve got a recipe for awesome-sauce that I’ve been drizzling over each and every minute as I devour my day.