Baseball91's Weblog

June 16, 2015

FBI Investigates Hacking by the St Louis Cardinals

Filed under: FBI,MLB — baseball91 @ 6:23 PM
Tags: , , , ,

Judging by the numbers: “Have you ever wanted something so bad, you’d just about sell your soul?” That question is the basis of the musical coming to town called “ Damn Yankees.”

And so the Houston Astros under Jim Crane, the 59-year old native of St. Louis who moved to Houston in 1980 (at the age of 23), married in 1993 (at the age of 36), and divorced in 2015 (at the age of 58). In May 2011, his offer to purchase the Houston Astros was approved. 

During the original bidding process in 2009 before the owners of the Rangers filed for bankruptcy protection, Jim Crane had been rejected by MLB in his bid for the Texas Rangers.  Crane next joined the Mark Cuban’s group to bid again at a high-profile bankruptcy court auction of the Rangers, against an ownership group led by Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan. Crane was struck out — as he had been in a bid to buy the Chicago Cubs.

It is interesting that the new Houston Astros owner’s boyhood allegiance was to the Cardinals, in the state where Crane had played college baseball.  So Crane looked to St Louis for his general manager, in Jeff Luhnow.  Luhnow had had control of player development in St. Louis, implementing a database called “Redbird.”  An outsider,Jeff Luhrow developed his metric system for judging performance, because he had had no baseball experience. Luhnow had been brought in by the hedge fund manager who was the managing general partner of the Cardinals.

With an emphasis on bigger, stronger, faster, so came the computers. Computers had changed the personal side of baseball and, as much as programmed trading had changed Wall Street, were now changing baseball personnel. While some players tried steroids to get stronger, other organizations were taking a shot at programming their scouting departments and even player development, to see who was qualified to be a big league front office employee.

In December 2011, Jeff Luhnow was named general manager of the Houston Astros. He has been trying to reinvent the game of baseball based less on personal relationships and more on ruthless numbers. Jeff Luhnow allegedly has brought his dramatic technological overhaul of a baseball organization to Houston, with a 25-page plan detailing how his database would be “built from scratch” and tailored to the needs of the Houston Astros.  But would the Cardinals not have a “patented” interest over the proprietary creation which was developed while he was on the St. Louis payroll?

The Geek Squad. Was Houston’s “Ground Control” really the same database called “Redbird?”  And is this a really an FBI matter? It is of note that the FBI is investigating – not Major League Baseball – “hacking” by employee(s) of the St. Louis Cardinals. Jim Crane had been actively involved in politics with the Republican Party prior to 2002 (with contributions of $5,000 to the Republican National Committee, (RNC) in 2000, as well as to former Texas Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn) before contributing since then to the Democratic Party.  Crane likes to have access to and use power – if not information – per his golf weekend in Florida with President Obama, in February 2015. Speaking of hacking away — though Tiger Wood and the CEO with the lowest handicap of all Fortune 500 CEO were no hacks.

Luhnow with his analytical group of four full-time, “highly experienced” employees in September 2010 no longer were supervising the minor leagues, after he had been from 2004 through 2010.  He and his data were left to administer the scouting department for the major league draft, until Luhnow left for Houston. There had been a conflict of Luhnow with manager Tony LaRusso and his coaches. Over his proprietary information.

“Have you ever wanted something so bad, you’d just about sell your soul? – or the human face of the game of baseball? Some of these people in Houston, like in the steroid era of baseball, seemed bigger than the game, like the special assistant to General Manager Luhnow, Rogers Clemens. In that Jim Crane had neither the baseball people nor the the kind of political pull as the managing general partner of the St. Louis Cardinals, he elected to get the FBI to investigate at the public’s expense what well might be the private issues of patent law, when an employee switches allegiance?

And the 2011 article in the New York Times would leave a taste in your mouth that businesses that Mr Crane owned were not so squeaky clean themselves, in Houston …. where the baseball team under Jim Crane had been so bad, you did not even have to watch the games — if you worked as a member of Jeff Luhnow’s Geek Squad, called Ground Control. Their goal, as hedge funds managers, as free agents, as outsiders on the Geek Squad, was really only money.




  1. The Cardinal Way. Though he has denied his own culpability, the smoking gun in this hacking rests with William DeWitt Jr. A general manager is hired to run baseball operations. Managing general partner Bill DeWiit got in the middle of Walt Jockety’s managing, forcing him to take on Jeff Luhnow to run his scouting department. If anyone goes to jail as a result of hacking, it should me Bill DeWitt, Jr. Just connect the threads to what this hedge fund manager did to interject number-crunching to the every day operation of the Cardinals.

    Comment by baseball91 — June 17, 2015 @ 3:48 PM | Reply

  2. Bill Dewitt,Jr, did not go to jail but one of his hacks will be for the next 40 months.

    Comment by baseball91 — July 19, 2016 @ 3:37 PM | Reply

  3. Many great baseball people who have devoted their lives to discovering talent no longer work in the game. In Houston, the roll call of scouts let go this month, after being 28 games over .500 on Aug 28th, includes Paul Gale, Tim Moore, Tucker Blair, and Mike Wickham. The list of longtime respected evaluators of amateur players includes Zach Clark, John Martin, Nick Venuto, and Mark Ross. How did this team get built? There is good are good reasons to cheers against the Astros. Do you feel the existential threat to baseball with the Geeks put in charge, including the current commissioner who has this year seen ballclubs put the existing crowd on hand through a five hour rain delay. So why would you go to the ballpark at these prices with the prospect of a four-hour game and an approved five hour rain delay, based upon case law?

    And at a time as other news outlets are cutting back their sports coverage, did you see the connection between the existential threat to baseball and the lack of quality of your sports page? When “small trees had attacked my parents’ house at the foundation?”

    Daring to be great, at a heck of a place to start, the sport website The Athletic is for Ken Rosenthal, “like starting over. I don’t suspect The Athletic will be an underdog for long.”

    “The last time I had this feeling as a writer, I was coming out of college, full of fire, ready to take on the world.”

    Comment by baseball91 — August 28, 2017 @ 6:32 PM | Reply

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