High Stakes Hacking Sullies America’s Pastime
In light of the ongoing hacking scandal of the Houston Astros’ top secret baseball intelligence, the F.B.I. is investigating what appears to be a foul play by longtime rival, the St. Louis Cardinals. Cardinals’ office personnel are under investigation for breaking into a computer network that housed confidential information about the Astros’ top players. Among the stolen information was privileged information about trades, statistics, and scouting reports—definitely not the kind of insider knowledge that a team manager would want his rivals knowing.
The hacking was believed to be an act of revenge by disgruntled Cardinals employees, who felt slighted by Jeff Luhnow, the current general manager of the Astros and former longtime scouter for the Cardinals. The hackers weren’t very good at covering their tracks, though, and the F.B.I. has traced the breach to a residence in Jupiter, Florida, where several Cardinals’ employees specializing in statistical analysis were known to be working during last year’s spring training. Although the hackers tried to take measures to cover their tracks, they were no match for the F.B.I., who dismissed their efforts as amatuer.
This isn’t just a matter of baseball teams trying to best each other for home runs and league titles, though. The investigation represents the first known case of corporate espionage conducted by one team franchise on another. Confidential sports data has been hacked many times before, but these hackers are usually based in other countries, not other baseball uniforms.
The scandal has put a dark stain on the much loved Cardinals, who currently have the best record in the major league. They hold eleven World Series titles, bested only by the New York Yankees.
Jeff Luhnow is often credited with building a top notch team during his time with the Astros, based on his statistical approach to the sport, putting the “Moneyball” effect into practice perhaps more than any other manager before him. Luhnow’s background as a consultant at McKinsey allowed him to design a better system for predicting player performance over the long term. This Bloomburg Business story of how Luhnow has overhauled a long entrenched draft system through the application of statistical analysis is a great read.
This hacking controversy has left a stain on America’s pastime that has already lasted a lot longer than nine innings. Former national league rivals from 1994 to 2012, the Cardinals and the Astros have a long history of friendly competition. This hack has taken that rivalry from friendly to illegal, which is a shame for both teams. The Astros and the Cardinals are no longer in the same league, with the Astros now playing in the west division of the American League. While the F.B.I. investigation is still ongoing, two things are clear: Moneyball has changed the way we talk about baseball, and Jeff Luhnow is a fascinating figure in America’s pastime who isn’t afraid to embrace new technology. Let’s just hope he’s got some really good passwords.
Image: Flickr/M&R Glasgow