Baseball hacking scandal is another FIFA-style warning to the NFL and its teams

Getty Images

For a change, baseball is benefiting from its diminished profile in the American sports landscape.

Reports that the federal government is investigating the St. Louis Cardinals for hacking into the computer systems of the Houston Astros have received plenty of attention, but not the kind of over-the-top, mainstream focus that would have resulted from a similar allegation involving an NFL team — especially if that team were the New England Patriots. But it should be a bigger deal because, unlike the various cheating scandals that periodically pop up in the NFL, baseball’s current black eye involves not a violation of the rules of the game but potential violations of federal law.

Some will wonder whether NFL teams have done similar things under the guise of “all’s fair in love, war, and football.” It’s entirely possible that, over the years, state and federal laws technically have been broken by those looking to gain an edge on the gridiron.

While the NFL has not yet faced a scandal of this magnitude, the decision of the FBI to investigate the Cardinals should serve as a FIFA-style reminder to the NFL that Congress isn’t the only branch of the government to worry about. The bigger the NFL gets, the more likely that someone with one of the various federal agencies having responsibility for enforcing the laws of the land will get curious about the way a specific type of business is done by the NFL and/or its teams, develop a hunch, act on it, and possibly uncover enough evidence to secure an indictment.

So beyond the proprietors of pro football being thankful that this case doesn’t involve Cardinals that used to be in St. Louis, the deeper message is, “Be careful, or the feds are gonna get you next.”

86 responses to “Baseball hacking scandal is another FIFA-style warning to the NFL and its teams

  1. Hacking into the Astros data base?Why not a team that’s actually good?

  2. How MLB handles this will be very interesting. If they can banish Rose for life when he gambled as a MANAGER, what will the do to the Cardinals organization?

  3. He is right about the news coverage. I heard about the investigation on the news and that was it.

    No hysterical reporting, nothing like what would’ve happened if an NFL team had done it.

  4. such a joke… only reason the leagues care is cause of odds at vegas which every sports team profits off of.

    examples of leagues cheating:

    cleveland winning draft lottery to get lebron, and winning the lottery 3 times after he left he get a better team there (hence more $$ for the league)

    baseball knowing their players doing steroids until congress gets involved (don’t tell me yankees didn’t know arod did steroids, a billionaire doesn’t give 250 million out without knowing every detail about that individual)

  5. Strange analogy, FIFA involved bribes flowing through the US banking system. Cardinals investigation is better equated to industrial espionage and/or illegal access to a computer system(s).

  6. After the Colts get blown out in the playoffs next year look for Jim Irsay to text the FBI rather than Bob Kravitz.

  7. For those wondering why they hack the Astros, it’s because there is history between the Astros and Cardinals. The Astros GM is a former Cardinals executive, and he’s not on great terms with the Cardinals. I read (not confirmed) that he used the same passwords at his Astros job that he used while with the Cardinals.

    Even if it wasn’t that, it makes sense to target a small-market team instead of someone like the Dodgers or Yankees. A big-spending team just throws money at everyone, while due to their lack of money a small-market team needs careful research to find diamonds in the rough. I’d rather steal that info than find out if the Yankees are going to spend $100 million or $110 million on a player.

  8. not going to happen. Football Players are more of a commodity than attempting to procure international talent like they do in baseball. Plus Football is Akin to a Chess Match where strategy and moving parts are more vital as well as systems. baseball is a static game where variables and mathematics take more precedent over the outcome.

  9. if the feds start investigating the nfl or its teams, it will be entirely based on jealousy of the patriots success!!!!!

    (patriots fans, not quite sure, was that the correct number of exclamation points?)

  10. bucrightoff:

    You wake up EVERYDAY wishing that the best coach in the history of the NFL would lead your sorry a$$ franchise.

    Belichick is the #1 most valuable person the NFL has ever seen!

  11. In football, a database like this might contain playbooks or specific statistical information on which plays from that playbook work best in certain game situations or against a specific defenses/offenses. That’s not the necessarily the case for baseball. So, yes, such a breach would be a MUCH bigger deal in football, regardless of the relative popularity of the league.

  12. eagleswin says:
    Jun 17, 2015 10:19 AM

    He is right about the news coverage. I heard about the investigation on the news and that was it.

    No hysterical reporting, nothing like what would’ve happened if an NFL team had done it.
    =====================================

    Maybe there is no hysterical reporting because calmer minds have decided to await the facts before reporting tabloid allegations. How refreshing!!

  13. Baseball sold McGuire and Sosa like bad afternoon tv sold soap. The denials of fools like Selig that baseball officials and team owners knew nothing of their steroid use was laughable.

  14. the feds could interview the deflator as many times as they damn well please. you best hope they never get involved if you’re a patriots fan.

  15. Memo from Robert Kraft to his Patriots employees this morning:

    “We are shutting down the digital espionage department of the New England Patriots as of today. Sorry guys, have to do it given recent events.

    Oh and please burn all hard drives immediately. Thanks.

    -Bob K.

    P.S. – We’d like to welcome Sepp Blatter aboard as a Patriots Consultant. He brings plenty of experience and seems like a real Patriot through and through.”

  16. People still watch baseball? Yawn. Wake me up when there’s a salary cap.

  17. cliffclavin2015 says:
    Jun 17, 2015 10:16 AM
    How MLB handles this will be very interesting. If they can banish Rose for life when he gambled as a MANAGER, what will the do to the Cardinals organization?
    __________________
    Hopefully one or more felony convictions, maybe some time in a federal corrections facility for all involved. Let’s see if there is any kind of a cover-up attempt because as good as the Cardinals have been over the years trying to hide what you did is (almost) always worse than what you did. If it goes to the top make them sell the team.

  18. Cards should learn from the patriots. Say it was a rogue employee and he has been fired and secretly pay him off so he won’t talk.

  19. But on the other hand peds in baseball do cause a national hysteria, whereas in football noone really cares about peds.

    Who knows why maybe an anthropologist could explain it.

  20. Justice according to the ex jet intern Goodell.

    Jets hack Pats computers: $100k fine
    Pats hack Jets computers: lifetime ban for Belichick, loss of multiple first round picks

  21. I hope the Cardinals get dragged through the mud in the court of public opinion like people have done to the Patriots. We don’t know for sure what did or didn’t happen with the footballs, but the public was so quick to jump to conclusions and bury the Pats and Brady before the sketchy Wells Report was even released. I don’t even wish it on the Cardinals, I just want see some consistency from the peanut gallery and prove how this “outrage” is largely based on jealousy and wishful thinking.

  22. What could possibly be gained by baseball teams hacking each other? Not like there are play books or strategies to a game with set position zones, catchers calling pitches in the moment and a guy hitting a ball with a stick. It’s all very odd.

  23. Patriot obsessed trolls are out in force.. you only wish your teams could be relevant…Free Tom Brady

  24. The first thing on many NFL fan’s minds was…Patriots.

    Whether its right or wrong, people associate a cheating story with the Patriots. That is the Patriot’s Dynasty.

  25. If that database is important proprietary or confidential information it should be on standalone computers that are not connected to the Internet. No data on a computer hooked up to the Internet is safe. Security is always hampered by convenience and can be exploited by people with the knowledge to circumvent the protection measures.

  26. Man, the FBI is on a roll lately. First, they took down the lead organization of the most popular sport in the world. Now they are going after baseball (just one team so far). Hopefully Goodell is next. Let’s open the books and see how Super Bowls are “chosen” and also see how many politicians the owners have bribed to use tax payer public money for their palatial renovations to their workplace (stadiums).

  27. bucrightoff says:
    Jun 17, 2015 10:21 AM
    The best part of this is all the pictures of Belichick in Cardinals gear…

    You can only hope that Jason Licht, a friend and disciple of Bill Belichick, turns out to be as good of a General Manager as Belichick has been with the Pats.

    BTW, Jason Licht is the GM of the Bucs. Of course Licht does not have the luxury of having Belichick as the Head Coach of the Bucs.

  28. Mike, my question is with the NFL going all in with prosecuting the Patriots based on a flawed report that is very vague in its findings on a minor violation, what room does it leave itself in prosecuting a situation of this magnitude in the future? It’s pretty much agreed upon that the biggest hit the league can give a team is taking their first round pick, which they did to the Patriots for something many people feel hasn’t even been proven. What wiggle room do they have to escalate punishments for actual real issues that can and most likely will occur in the future? Wouldn’t taking multiple years (3 or more) of 1st picks from a team become a virtual near-death penalty?

  29. The best part of this is all the pictures of Belichick in Cardinals gear being brought up.

    Loved the caption: “Just blame it on the bat-boy”

  30. It’s a warning to Goodell.

    Just because you have the power to frame somebody doesn’t mean that you should do it.

  31. Even as a Hawks fan I say the Pats trolls are getting out of hand. Yes we know the Pats are the most hated team in football and yes they deserve it. We get it. They are not legit champions and never have been and never will be. Wow, I do a feel a little better now. Maybe there is something to this.

  32. FBI Agent 1: “How did the get in the Atro’s system?”
    FBI Agent 2: “They used the same password the GM used when he was with the Astros”.
    FBI Agent 1: “The Astros were dumb enough not to disable the account or whipe it out or at least change the password?”
    FBI Agent 2: “Yes sir.”
    FBI Agent 1: “Well then, if thats the case they deserve it. Stand down boys…lets go on home”

  33. Trump running for POTUS is a FIFA style warning to the NFL.

    Me tripping on the sidewalk is a FIFA style warning to the NFL.

    That weird rash on my arm is a FIFA style warning to the NFL.

    Can we be done here?

  34. The first thing on many NFL fan’s minds when they wake up in the morning…Patriots.

    Whether its right or wrong, people associate any story with the Patriots because they are more obsessed with them than the Pats fans themselves. That is the Patriot’s Dynasty.

    They permanently live in the heads of trolls

  35. Fifa = Greed + Hubris (Blatter thinking I’m too big and smart to get caught.) There was a whistle blower. The FBI didn’t just start poking around.

    Cards = Revenge + Stupidity. The Cards thought their former employee took their proprietary player evaluation data to the Astro’s and they wanted to see if they could catch him. They should have done the right way and sued. The former employee, now with Houston, is the one who realized he’d been hacked, and called the cops. The FBI didn’t just start poking around.

    So the lesson for the NFL is don’t break the law. Duh.

  36. One would have to be naive to think the NFL is untouchable, regardless if the NFL has done something wrong or not. The feds love to stick their noses in about everything.

    Who knows, Kraft may be the Godfather of hacking in the NFL. Sarcasm.

  37. This might be hacking only in the lowest sense of the word. They took username/password combos from people’s time in the Cardinals and used those logins to access the Astros network. That to me is not an actual hack. But the lesson to NFL people, change your passwords!!

  38. seabrawk12 says:
    Jun 17, 2015 12:00 PM
    Even as a Hawks fan I say the Pats trolls are getting out of hand. Yes we know the Pats are the most hated team in football and yes they deserve it. We get it. They are not legit champions and never have been and never will be. Wow, I do a feel a little better now. Maybe there is something to this.

    —————
    They looked legit as Brady carved up the Seahawks faux secondary and exposed them the for frauds they will be shown to be all season this year.

  39. According to a report from ESPN, “Brady wants entire suspension removed and wants to be exonerated.

    “The sense that I get right now is the Brady camp feels it will ragdoll the entire NFL’s case and that Roger Goodell will be overwhelmed by the avalanche of problems with the Wells Report,” said Tom E. Curran. “We can see the momentum already building, can’t we? … What we’re looking at over the next few days is a little bit of momentum building and maybe even a sense of more things to come.

    “I think as we get closer to this appeal there will be more indications of just how hard the NFLPA and the Tom Brady camp is going to go after not just Goodell, but all the underlings – Kensil, Vincent and the rest.”

  40. Two totally different sports. These guys hacked into their personnel system, where each team has hundreds of players scouted and signed from all over the world. Each team has 5 minor league affiliates stocked with players that are internally ranked and analyzed. The hackers got info on player evaluations and internal trade discussions. In the NFL, just about every single player from draft picks to camp bodies has been scouted and analyzed by all teams’ scouts. It’s more stealing the Astros knowledge of players and transactions than trying to manufacture a head to head advantage over them. It’s really not comparable in terms of how the 2 sports operate. Stealing signs and doctoring balls is the only cheating that is comparable to the NFL but is still different in that football is much more based on strategy every single play and baseball strategy is situational and varies to a greater degree than a game of football that is organized with a clock and set plays. Since the FBI is involved, the MLB will have to wait to see to what extent this goes. Being that the Astros GM is a former Cardinals employee who set up their database as well, the Cardinals knew what they could expect to find in his new system. The reports state that several Cardinals employees gained entrance to the system form a house near the teams spring training facility and used passwords and variations of passwords he had used while with them. With that said, if anything like that happened in the NFL it would be on CNN,TMZ,public access and any other channel you get.

  41. The Cardinals hacking the Houston Astros? Ted Wells has concluded that Tom Brady may have known about this.

  42. FBI needs to investigate the Super Bowl Bidding process and how these owners still are supporting Goodell, how he is still the Commissioner and how he justifies $44 million in compensation and what the real reason they gave up their tax exempt status and I dont buy as Goodell put it became too much of a “distraction”

  43. Illegally wire tapping your opponent?

    In my day this was called Watergate, and it resulted in the resignation of a US president.

  44. skittlesareyum says:
    Jun 17, 2015 10:28 AM

    For those wondering why they hack the Astros, it’s because there is history between the Astros and Cardinals. The Astros GM is a former Cardinals executive, and he’s not on great terms with the Cardinals. I read (not confirmed) that he used the same passwords at his Astros job that he used while with the Cardinals.

    Even if it wasn’t that, it makes sense to target a small-market team instead of someone like the Dodgers or Yankees. A big-spending team just throws money at everyone, while due to their lack of money a small-market team needs careful research to find diamonds in the rough. I’d rather steal that info than find out if the Yankees are going to spend $100 million or $110 million on a player.
    ———————–

    This was a good post until you said that Houston is a small market. It’s not. Houston is actually the 4th largest city in the U.S. Only New York, LA, and Chicago are larger.

  45. “How MLB handles this will be very interesting. If they can banish Rose for life when he gambled as a MANAGER, what will the do to the Cardinals organization?”

    Probably disband the franchise and erase all records and championships, like they deserve, if it proven true.

  46. I haven’t seen a leaked “11 out of 12 baseballs….” story,so MLB is doing something right

  47. “cliffclavin2015 says:
    Jun 17, 2015 10:16 AM
    How MLB handles this will be very interesting.”

    How the FBI handles it will be even more interesting.

  48. “Memo from Robert Kraft to his Patriots employees this morning:

    “We are shutting down the digital espionage department of the New England Patriots as of today. Sorry guys, have to do it given recent events.

    Oh and please burn all hard drives immediately. Thanks.

    -Bob K.

    P.S. – We’d like to welcome Sepp Blatter aboard as a Patriots Consultant. He brings plenty of experience and seems like a real Patriot through and through.””

    I’m surprised all teams that play there don’t change all their calls/signals in the second half.

  49. What should the NFL do in light of all of this? Not sure, but Ted Wells will probably make $millions off of whatever they decide to do.

  50. I was a bit shocked when I first saw the headline about the Cardinals story, but after reading the details of that story, it’s not going to amount to much. This was more of an isolated personal issue and concern about an ex-exec than some kind of institutional espionage.

    Then again, “deflategate” was a bunch of insignificant nothing that got blown up into a ridiculous crisis, so who really knows how much hand-wringing this new story will produce.

  51. bencoates57 says:
    Jun 17, 2015 12:29 PM

    According to a report from ESPN, “Brady wants entire suspension removed and wants to be exonerated.
    “The sense that I get right now is the Brady camp feels it will ragdoll the entire NFL’s case and that Roger Goodell will be overwhelmed by the avalanche of problems with the Wells Report,” said Tom E. Curran. “We can see the momentum already building, can’t we? … What we’re looking at over the next few days is a little bit of momentum building and maybe even a sense of more things to come.

    “I think as we get closer to this appeal there will be more indications of just how hard the NFLPA and the Tom Brady camp is going to go after not just Goodell, but all the underlings – Kensil, Vincent and the rest.”

    CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran

    This is why we laugh so hard at Pats’ fans.

    “But, I asked my buddy wearing a Brady jersey and he thinks Tom is really cool so obviously we’ve been proven right…”

    LOL

  52. “gdbroker says:
    Jun 17, 2015 11:40 AM
    Mike, my question is with the NFL going all in with prosecuting the Patriots based on a flawed report that is very vague in its findings on a minor violation, what room does it leave itself in prosecuting a situation of this magnitude in the future? ”
    =========================================

    It WAS a minor violation (see, you admit it). However, the Patriots made it a huge deal with the over the top denials and press conferences demanding apologies. If they had just admitted it and taken the slap on the wrist, this whole thing would have blown over. By forcing and demanding an investigation and then stonewalling the investigators, the Pats forced this whole thing into the biggest story of the year. Congrats.

    It didn’t work for Lance Armstrong and Alex Rodriguez, and it won’t work for the Patriots.

  53. Dear god it’s so nauseating listening to these cheat scumbag fans. It’s also very sad that this country has such despicable human beings in it capable of not only accepting such behavior to win a trophy, but pretending like it either doesn’t matter or that it’s all a big setup. I guess that is their way of accepting it without putting a barrel in their mouth. Yet covering up for lies only amounts to even more lies. Now they are so obviously lying and have been lying for so long covering up one lie after the next, they can’t even see just how bad they look to every one else in the country outside of NE. I will say it’s bad enough we changed our plans to move to the region to enjoy the climate and landscape. No way would I subject my family/kids to that sort of pathetic environment.

  54. It seems to me the most fertile ground for a search possibly implicating NFL teams would have to do with the processes surrounding the use of public money to build stadiums for NFL teams. A second area would involve looking into how the NFL maintains its advantageous tax advantage . And the last would be how various teams might have used “leverage” to keep their players out of jail or at least out of the public spotlight when crimes were committed.

  55. Dear god it’s so nauseating listening to these cheat scumbag fans. It’s also very sad that this country has such despicable human beings in it capable of not only accepting such behavior to win a trophy, but pretending like it either doesn’t matter or that it’s all a big setup. I guess that is their way of accepting it without putting a barrel in their mouth. Yet covering up for lies only amounts to even more lies. Now they are so obviously lying and have been lying for so long covering up one lie after the next, they can’t even see just how bad they look to every one else in the country outside of NE. I will say it’s bad enough we changed our plans to move to the region to enjoy the climate and landscape. No way would I subject my family/kids to that sort of pathetic environment.

    I’m glad to see we have such fine upstanding people who declare someone guilty before they even have a chance to prove themselves innocent. Great lesson for your children.
    I don’t know where you are from, but we didn’t invite you to move to NE, don’t need or want you here and hope you stay wherever you are so we can avoid the biased mind pollution you exude.

  56. “Why hadn’t PFT previously reported that Belichick was working for the Cardinals part time this summer?”

    Must be those NFL leaks..wait my tinfoil hat just fell off.

  57. Couldn’t MLB simply pass a “Patriot Act” or assemble a FISA court to greenlight team requests to hack their opponents?

    Or maybe any team could just file a FOIA request and get the redacted information they wanted from the FBI or the NSA.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.