It’s difficult to imagine, if the allegations are true that someone within the St. Louis Cardinals organization hacked into the Houston Astros database, just what they were trying to accomplish.
That’s almost as difficult to comprehend as the idea that Houston GM Jeff Luhnow, a former St. Louis front office staffer, would use the same computer passwords after switching organizations.
Currently cast as one of the best and brightest minds in baseball, how smart can you be when you switch jobs and in a highly competitive field and don’t do anything to secure your intellectual property?
But, seriously, what could the Redbirds gain from accessing the Astros’ player analysis files? Luhnow wasn’t the only guy working in the Birds’ analytical department at the time of his departure. His coworkers knew about his player evaluation techniques. Couldn’t they do their own legwork by applying the familiar methods themselves?
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After all, the nature of sabermetrics is using scientific techniques to value and predict the performance of players. Relying on someone’s personal opinion about a player is pretty much the opposite of what Luhnow does and it’s what caused him friction with former St. Louis manager Tony La Russa as well as former GM Walt Jocketty who preferred a more old-school method of judging players.
The national media is trying to hype this as a case of alleged corporate espionage. But while an NBC report called the Astros “the Cardinals’ arch-rivals” that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
NBC may not have noticed, but the Astros haven’t been in the same division -- or league -- as the Cardinals in several years. St. Louis’ path to the post season doesn’t go through Houston anymore.
And, as far as any strategic advantage goes, let’s not forget that the Cardinals were the defending National League champions when this all supposedly went down -- and the Astros were the worst team in the American League.
The Cardinals’ trade activity with the Astros at the time of the alleged attack was minimal.
This isn’t a partisan argument that the Redbirds are awesome so they’re better at everything than everybody else. What I’m asking is, if you’re going to cheat to try to gain a competitive advantage, wouldn’t it make more sense to steal from a team you actually compete against such as the Chicago Cubs or the Pittburgh Pirates?
Wouldn’t the information that could be acquired from unfamiliar sources be more valuable than trying to find out what a familiar source thinks about a player?
In the same report NBC called this a case of “high-tech hacking.” Fishing with known passwords is the opposite of a high-tech operation. The implication is that the Cardinals have a room of cyber spies sitting in front of a wall of computer monitors. In reality, it sure seems that someone was having a couple of beers with a co-worker during spring training and said “Everyone thinks Luhnow is so smart. But I bet he’s not even bright enough to change his password.”
It’s also odd that the Cardinals would hack the Astros, of all teams, because when the teams did compete with each other directly, the competition seemed very respectful. While there were fisticuffs between St. Louis and NL Central rivals the Pirates, the Cincinnati Reds, and the Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis and Houston players spoke in glowing terms of the competition.
For so many reasons, Houston is a target that doesn’t make sense.
I’m eager to see the results of the FBI investigation because, on it’s face, this whole situation just doesn’t make sense.
If the Cardinals were intentionally stealing information with malicious intent, they deserve to be punished. But I just don’t see what they had to gain by looking at a former employee’s trade notes.