added 6/27/2015 by Greg Thurston
New MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is about to be faced with his first big decision and it has nothing to do with Pete Rose. I'm talking about the case of corporate espionage involving the St. Louis Cardinals and their successful attempts at hacking into the Astros' Ground Control database. What sort of punishment might be handed down to the Cardinals by Bud Selig's successor?
As first reported by the New York Times, at least one breach of the Astros' private network has been traced back to a computer located at a Jupiter, Florida residence housing Cardinals employees. Exactly who was manning the keyboard and whether or not he had orders from above could be hard to pinpoint. But the FBI is hard at work trying to figure it out.
The N.Y. Times report speculates that the attack was meant to embarrass Jeff Luhnow. It also suggests that a handful of statistical analysts and programmers with access to the Jupiter computer are the main focus of the FBI's investigation. Given Luhnow's tremendously successful record when he was the Cardinals Director of Scouting, I think it's safe to assume there's a little more substance to this. I mean, is it out of the realm of possibility to think that a high-ranking member of the St. Louis front office wanted to get his hands on Luhnow's scouting reports? In reality, wouldn't it be foolish to assume otherwise? Yet, the national media that was so critical of the Astros methods over the last three seasons has yet to suggest any foul play by the Cardinals brass. Thanks for the unbiased reporting, everyone.
Much like the NFL's New England Patriots, the Cards have been at the top of their sport's food chain since the turn of the millennium. Such continued success coupled with their loveable mid-market, middle-America characteristics seems to have elevated the St. Louis franchise to media darling status. It's extremely difficult to stay on top in today's super-competitive climate. As we all know, the Patriots have had more than their share of ignominy along the way. In 2007 the Pats and head coach Bill Belichick were forced to forfeit a draft pick and pay heavy fines for videotaping the defensive signals of the New York Jets. The Pats were hit with even stiffer penalties after last winter's so-called deflategate scandal. Are the Cardinals any different? Everyone seems to have forgotten it was a juiced-up Mark McGwire that brought the nation's attention back to a franchise that was ten years removed from its last World Series.
Shouldn't the Cards be saddled with sanctions similar to those handed down to the Patriots – or worse? Because, unlike letting a little bit of air out of a few footballs, the Cardinals have broken federal law. In an attempt to avoid jail time, at least four Cardinals employees have reportedly hired criminal defense attorneys. A plea bargain implicating someone higher up the food chain would seem to be the next move.
I'm convinced that someone above statistician pay-grade ordered the break in. But that shouldn't even matter. In the real world, corporations are often held responsible for the actions of their employees, regardless of prior knowledge or intent. There is no doubt that the Cardinals are guilty here. So, please, Mr Commissioner, come down hard on the St. Louis franchise and show the rest of the league that no one is above the law.