Earlier today, the New York Times’ Michael Schmidt reported the FBI is investigating the St. Louis Cardinals’ hacking of the Houston Astros’ internal data, a scheme allegedly provoked by former Cards exec Jeff Luhnow departing to become Houston’s general manager. “We have done what we need to do to minimize information leaking,” Luhnow told the Houston Chronicle in 2014, but it would appear he might not have done nearly enough, at least when it comes to changing passwords when moving from job to job. The Cardinals’ attempts to infiltrate Houston’s network are certainly unethical, absolutely illegal, but as SB Nation’s Roger Sherman explains, most likely, they were also an utter waste of time (“if this were about competitive advantage, it would be a wider scale operation. It wasn’t: It was about making people on another team look dumb because of a personal grudge”).
For most teams, the ability to look into the Astros’ computer system, which has been lauded as an incredibly useful analytic tool, would have been a huge coup. But Luhnow had set up a similar one for the Cardinals, which is how they had the passwords in the first place. The most valuable thing the Cardinals could have discovered with this hacking was something they already had.
So far as we can tell, the information gleaned from the hacking wasn’t massively important. The data that leaked consisted of details of trade talks. It was interesting from an outsider’s perspective — we found out the Marlins kinda maybe might have been shopping Giancarlo Stanton! — but presumably, this is the type of information the Cardinals could have learned on their own as a result of also talking to other front offices.
I’m genuinely skeptical of the on-field advantage an MLB team could gain from even a very detailed peek into the day-to-day operations of one of the other 29 teams in the league. The Astros and Cardinals didn’t even play each other in 2014 nor do they play in 2015. Beyond that, teams post their lineups before games, starting pitchers are scheduled out ahead of time, scouting reports are available on everybody.