It was justifiably the biggest story in baseball yesterday, which means the carryover on the report that the FBI is investigating the Cardinals for allegedly hacking into the Astros’ private computer systems is quite strong today. Indeed, the story is interesting enough, and potentially serious enough, that there might be carryover for a long time until the investigation, and any applicable sanctions, are complete.
So much follow-up …
- Jeff Passan reports that the house being looked into as the source of the hacking is in Jupiter, Florida, which is where the Cardinals do their Spring Training. That leaves open a wide range of possibilities, though the original report indicated that the house was one shared by multiple Cardinals employees, and the Houston Chronicle reports that a group of four or five individuals associated with the Cardinals are being investigated.
- Take those reports together, and the implication is that there were a handful of front office executives and/or interns housing together at Spring Training, and one or more of them perpetrated the hack at that location. If they did this on their own, without passing on any knowledge up the chain, and if they are low level enough, any punishments for the Cardinals’ organization as a whole may be muted (the deterrent effect isn’t as strong if you’re punishing an organization for something an individual did on his/her own). If the information did make its way even a little up the chain, or if multiple Cardinals employees knew what was going on and didn’t say anything, then the punishment from MLB could, and probably should, be severe.
- As for the criminal aspect, I don’t want to draw too much on any past legal experience, both because I did not practice criminal law and because I haven’t practiced at all for over four years, but I can point you to this article from Orin Kerr and this article from Nathaniel Grow. They know what they’re talking about, so you can read those pieces for the nitty gritty on the criminal side. The short version? It is a federal offense to access someone else’s private computers/phones/etc. without their permission. I tend to think folks who’ve come up in the open information age don’t take this stuff as seriously as they should – while they wouldn’t dream of breaking into someone’s house and reading the files in their safe, many think it’s a joke to even call password guessing a “hack”, and it’s no big deal to pop into someone’s server and read a few things. This is serious, serious stuff, and federal agents and prosecutors take it as seriously as they should.
- But, circling back: that doesn’t mean the baseball implications here are going to be quite that severe. We just don’t know enough right now about who was involved, the depth and scope of the hack, and what else investigators might uncover about the Cardinals’ practices and activities. Maybe there was an institutional hacking program and the leak of the info last year about the Astros simply tipped things off. Alternatively (and, let’s be honest, more probably), maybe a single intern got access to Jeff Luhnow’s old passwords, and decided to try and screw him. If that was the case, how much punishment would the Cardinals really deserve? I know it’s easy to get riled up because it’s the Cardinals, but try to keep your head within the fairness zone.
- Speaking of which, Grow writes here about the possible punishments the Cardinals could face from MLB.
- Plenty of comments here from Commissioner Rob Manfred. He confirmed that MLB was aware of the investigation before yesterday’s report, and is cooperating with the investigation. Although it’s a serious matter, Manfred was reticent to say too much before more facts are known with respect to who was involved, what exactly they did, and who knew about it.
in keeping with baseball tradition, a Houston exec should walk into the STL offices and hit their best front office guy with a fastball
— Brandon McCarthy (@BMcCarthy32) June 16, 2015
The Cardinals will post all the hacked documents on WachaLeaks.
— Steve Rushin (@SteveRushin) June 16, 2015
— Matt Sebek (@MattSebek) June 16, 2015
Cardinals exit interview: "What made you seek other employment" "What is your mother's maiden name?" "And the name of your first pet?"
— FuzzBeed Eli (@EliGieryna) June 16, 2015
— David Carson (@PDPJ) June 16, 2015
— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) June 16, 2015