Of course, today’s story would break at a time where I really couldn’t get into discussing it. And while we’ve had a chance to look at the humorous side of things (apparently a lot of folks needed that–that one post beats most all the weeks we’ve had over here when it comes to hits!), it really is a pretty serious situation. I don’t know that I have any great insights or anything new to add, but I wanted to write about it anyway.
First off, let’s agree on one thing–it’s not HackGate. Or CardGate or any sort of Gate. The Watergate was an actual building, not a scandal that had to do with people selling water at inflated prices. There are no gates involved here, so be more creative when you are talking about this controversy. The Crimson Horror or something like that. I even like the “Birdgazi” one that is floating around. If you are going to attach it to a political scandal, at least make it one in my lifetime.
Now, let’s be clear. This is a big deal and folks are going to be in trouble over it. I completely expect some jail time to at least be sentenced, even if it’s minimal and perhaps suspended. Once they find out who did this–and let’s be honest, they probably already know, they just can’t completely prove it yet–things are going to be pretty bad for those low-level folks that thought they’d try some of Jeff Luhnow’s old passwords.
And, to be fair, it’s more than that. Luhnow himself could come and write down his password for me, but it wouldn’t do me any good. I have no idea how to access their systems to even get to the point of putting in a password. It sounds like Ground Control was basically Redbird Dog with an Astros skin, so maybe those that are in the know have a pretty good idea what the URL or whatnot is to get into their software. Still, it’s not just pulling up GMail and continuing to try some of the ones Luhnow used in St. Louis.
It sounds like Luhnow left behind some disenfranchised folks in the Cardinal organization. I remember that John Mozeliak got frustrated enough with Luhnow raiding the front office when he left for Houston (taking folks like Sig Megdal) that he finally drew the line and said nobody else could leave. It sounds like Luhnow took the software with him as well, which was probably a sore point, even though he helped develop it.
If Luhnow is taking all this as he walks out the door, it could be speculated that he took a few other things, such as data files, that maybe he really didn’t have the rights to. I can imagine this starting with a couple of Cardinal employees talking it over, convincing themselves that Luhnow had their scouting reports on Michael Wacha or some other guys being looked at and deciding to do something about it. They get on the system, plug in some old passwords, and find themselves inside Ground Control.
Does that make it right? Of course not. Does it mitigate their punishment? I don’t believe so. But if Luhnow did take proprietary information from St. Louis, I don’t know how else the organization would be able to prove it. Of course, the proper course of action would be to let it go, ask through the right channels if there was anything (though that’s likely not to get you a positive response) or see if you can find evidence to force the Astros’ hand. Hacking their system really isn’t the best way for the latter, though.
Given all that, our hypothetical duo could have easily gotten away with most everything if they had just looked around, backed out of the system, and went on their way. Where they goofed (more so than the initial break-in) was to post some info from their tour of the system on public forums. No doubt they thought they were embarrassing Luhnow, no doubt they wanted to tweak him a bit and show the world what the Astros were thinking. However, that brought things to everyone’s attention and once that happened, they weren’t getting away, especially since, here in our hypothetical, these aren’t hackers per se but folks with a little knowledge and a misguided focus. Of course they weren’t going to hide their tracks. They weren’t thinking anything of the sort, at least not to the level of the professional hackers. Anyone with some experience would find them soon enough.
All that is moot to the point of any situation like this, the question that became famous with Watergate: “What did they know and when did they know it?”
If anyone in the upper management of the Cardinals knew about and/or directed such an attack, that person has to be gone. Immediately. I don’t care if it’s John Mozeliak or Bill DeWitt III or whomever, the club has to show that such behavior isn’t allowed, no matter how much good you’ve done for the squad or what your relationship is to the owner of the organization. This goes at the very fabric of the trust fans have toward their organization plus the trust and relationships toward other clubs when it comes to trades and things of that nature. You cut that out quickly and severely.
That being said, I do not believe that it went very high up the chain if anywhere beyond those that made the incursion. “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.” (Matthew 7:18) Look at the people they bring into this organization. Look at the character that they make a key component of drafts and trades and free agency. It would seem easier to compromise the principles and bring in an unrepentant cheater (I know, some of you will throw Jhonny Peralta up, but there are some extenuating circumstances in his situation and he served his time and hasn’t been a problem since) than to go to this level that is unprecedented (as far as we know) in professional sport.
Did the Cardinals derive a tactical advantage from this? I don’t see how. It’s not like they could use this information to steal a draft pick from the team that was drafting first. It’s not like they really wanted to focus on the same free agents that would be interested in going to a last place team (especially a team that really was eschewing free agents). Again, I don’t believe this goes beyond the “hackers”, so most of the organization had no clue that this was going on. As such, there’s no way they could use the information because they didn’t know they had it.
If it is proven that there’s no systematic failure here, that there’s no culture of corruption, I don’t believe the club should be punished much, if at all. Perhaps to show that you are responsible for everyone in your front office, whether team president or new intern, but beyond that, I don’t think it would deserve much of a response. It’s not football–we are not vacating wins or postseason appearances. Nothing here is why the Cards have been to four straight NLCS. Maybe a fine, but that would seem to be it.
If that’s not the case, though, if the club knew well up the chain of command or had suggested this would be a good thing, then we’ll revisit and revise these thoughts. That’s not a situation I want to contemplate, though, and I don’t believe I’ll have to do so.
Of course, this is just opening the floodgates for those that already think the Cardinals are too high-and-mighty, too sanctimonious, too irritating. (By all this, of course, they mean too successful.) So unless you can develop a think skin or can laugh about it, I’d stay off Twitter for a few days. Even as the Cardinals won again today (we’ll talk about that tomorrow), it’s not an easy time to be a Cards fan. Then again, few things worth their salt ever are.