St. Louis Cardinals

Hacked off: A little perspective, please, on Cardinals’ computer ‘scandal’

It's hard to speak reason to allegations the Cardinals hacked into a Houston Astros computer data base because loyalists already have slipped into a comfortable state of denial and haters will only dismiss you as a homer.

But I’ll beg the question anyway: Can we have a little perspective here?

Social media, of course, already has had its way with the story. Facebook's legion of legal experts have weighed in with lots of theory and, mostly, hyperbole.

But some scandal-loving sports journalists have joined the scrum, too.

LA Times columnist Bill Plaschke, for example, has concluded that a computer intelligence breach is the only logical explanation for how the Cardinals battered Dodgers’ pitcher Clayton Kershaw during last season's National League divisional series.

Washington Post writer Tom Boswell has declared this a scandal of "unprecedented" scope (hey Tom, ever heard of the 1919 Chicago "Black" Sox?) and has already fitted the yet-to-be-identified conspirators with prison shackles and nominated them for the Pete Rose Society of Baseball's Banned.

C'mon, man.

DEWITT: If there were hackers, ‘they will be held accountable

SHARP REACTION: The baseball world weighs in

FEDERAL CASE: Could Cardinals staffers face prison time?

If you are truly interested in reason, you know that from where we sit today there are too many missing details to conclude a darn thing. And what little we do know makes it hard to conclude that any secrets stolen from the Houston Astros are the key to the Cardinals' run of success.

Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow used to work for the Cardinals, remember? He was the innovative farm system director and "Moneyball" disciple that pretty much forced Walt Jocketty out of town.

He also was the designer of "Redbird Dog," a predictive computer database that has become the repository for all the baseball knowledge the Cardinals have acquired. It was the precursor to "Ground Control," a similar network that Luhnow built for the Astros – which the Cardinals now stand accused of "hacking."

There's certainly no denying that somebody who works at Busch Stadium weaseled his way online where he shouldn't have been. The FBI has suggested that the individuals went there to see what proprietary collateral Lunhow might have “borrowed” from his days with the Cardinals.

But less-nefarious motives seem at least as likely as those which conclude the Cardinals were spying on a franchise that has lost an average of 104 games over the last four season.

Frankly, the unsophisticated way this all went down looks more like it came from an episode of MTV's "Punked" than the sexy "corporate espionage" narrative that's being prematurely peddled in the media.

How did the “four to five” low-ranking Cardinals' employees "hack" Ground Control? They dialed up the URL from a computer at their spring training residence and entered one of their old boss's known passwords.

Just like that.

Apparently, the Ground Control database is about as secure as a New York prison, because this isn't the only time it's been accessed from the outside.

In June of last year, about 10 months worth of internal trade chatter taken from Ground Control was posted to Anonbin — a website where users can post hacked or leaked information — and subsequently shared by Deadspin.

A few months earlier, a photo in the Houston Chronicle revealed enough of Ground Control's URL that some readers even managed to get in.

Nobody is saying it’s OK to access a secured database, even if it is protected only by the cyber equivalent of a rusty bolt. If it is ultimately revealed that propietary information was taken or that knowledge of the hack went all the way to John Mozeliak’s office, then we can declare the “Cardinal Way” dead as the dodo.

In the meantime, let’s dispense of the cloak-and-dagger conspiracy theories, shall we? In lieu of a full investigation and actual indictments there is absolutely nothing that can be concluded from what is currently known.

Except this:

When it comes to baseball and winning, there's more to the crack of the bats than to the hack of the stats.

Sports Editor Todd Eschman can be reached at teschman@bnd.com or 239-2540. Follow him on Twitter: @tceschman.

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