Cheating in the Digital Age with the St. Louis Cardinals

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For as long as sports have been played, competitors have done whatever is possible or necessary to gain an advantage over opponents. In baseball, guys have tried to steal signs since the 1800s, and some players still cork bats and scuff or smear "substances" on the ball. Remember the pitcher in Major League whose chosen performance enhancer was snot? 

In the 1980s, the New York Islanders were believed to have swapped out the high-test coffee in the visitors' locker room with decaf. Hell, the New England Patriots have built a dynasty smudged by scandals, from illegally videotaping foes to deflating footballs.

So despite the fact that the St. Louis Cardinals are known for "doing it right," developing news surrounding an alleged hacking scandal shouldn't shock anyone. While it may be classified as a form of cheating, it is simply a product of evolving technology. From tanking games, tripping opponents, and painting locker rooms pink, to munching greenies and injecting steroids, to videotaping practices and cyber warfare, this is the next logical step. 

It's a wonder it hasn't happened before.

We live in a digitally connected world in which corporate espionage and computer hacking are major concerns for big business. Ask Target or any other company that's been compromised recently. If you have a Twitter account, you've likely had to change your password more than once after your account started spouting a deluge of erectile dysfunction ads. You didn't tweet them. You were hacked. Allegedly. 

So now the Houston Astros may have been hacked by the St. Louis Cardinals front office. According to published reports, the FBI and Justice Department prosecutors, fresh off their FIFA probe that tore soccer's international body wide open, are setting their sights on a possible cyber breach between baseball rivals. The Cardinals are accused of stealing player personnel information from the Astros computer database, dubbed "Ground Control."

"The St. Louis Cardinals are aware of the investigation into the security breach of the Houston Astros' database. The team has fully cooperated with the investigation and will continue to do so," the Cardinals said in a statement. "Given that this is an ongoing federal investigation, it is not appropriate for us to comment further."

Investigators have said the scheme was borne out of a personal vendetta some Cardinals staffers may have harbored against former executive Jeff Luhnow, who is now the GM of the Astros. The Cardinals are believed to have gained access to the Astros computers by using Luhnow's old passwords. Or, more simply, "the intrusion did not appear to be sophisticated." To be fair, it's the same way the guys on Silicon Valley "hacked" End Frame.

Some of the leaked information may have been anonymously published online last year on Deadspin, including 10 months of internal trade talks. The data offered interesting insight behind MLB negotiations, but it turns out it may have been a prelude to the FBI investigation into the first known hacking of an opponent's computer system.

Welcome to the new world of cheating in pro sports. Don't drink the coffee, double-check the footballs, and, for the love of god, make sure you regularly change your passwords.

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