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In the Very Serious Business of grown men playing games, for money, here is another shocking tale of corruption in sports. This time, it's our nation's favorite pastime, as wholesome and pure and all-American as mom's apple pie or getting knocked up in the back of Ford pick-up. (If you ignore a century of other impure Major League Baseball scandals, that is.)


The St. Louis Cardinals -- who are very good at baseballing, according to people who follow that sort of thing -- are under federal investigation for allegedly hacking into the personnel files of the Houston Astros, whom one would only call a "rival" team if one were feeling particularly generous:

Investigators have uncovered evidence that Cardinals officials broke into a network of the Houston Astros that housed special databases the team had built, according to law enforcement officials. Internal discussions about trades, proprietary statistics and scouting reports were compromised, the officials said. [...]

Major League Baseball “has been aware of and has fully cooperated with the federal investigation into the illegal breach of the Astros’ baseball operations database,” a spokesman for baseball’s commissioner, Rob Manfred, said in a written statement.

The Cardinals officials under investigation have not been put on leave, suspended or fired. The commissioner’s office is likely to wait until the conclusion of the government’s investigation to determine whether to take disciplinary action against the officials or the team.

Given that we are not a sports blog, we generally cover sportsball stories only when they involve star athletes beating up their girlfriends or wives. Or children. Or being charged for rape. Or teams reluctantly agreeing to pay their cheerleaders the minimum wage and maybe stop all the other labor violations. Or owners refusing to change their offensive team name because it's not really offensive (yes it is), and besides, a majority of Americans don't have a problem with it. Or players just being racist, sexist, homophobic assholes. Or that huge corruption scandal that's bringing down professional soccer, whatever that is, like football only un-American.

On the plus side, no one has been physically harmed or killed (that we know of) in this latest incident that proves once again why sports is Very Serious Business. Good job, baseball, you've got that going for you! Here's a not so good-for-you fun fact though:

The attack would represent the first known case of corporate espionage in which a professional sports team hacked the network of another team. Illegal intrusions into companies’ networks have become commonplace, but it is generally conducted by hackers operating in foreign countries, like Russia and China, who steal large tranches of data or trade secrets for military equipment and electronics.

Hacking is supposed to be for important things like looking at another country's launch codes or viewing a dumb movie that makes fun of North Korea. You're not supposed to do evil computer nerding to sully the great sport of baseball, you silly "vengeful front-office employees" of the Cardinals, whoever you are. Is it really that important to know what some player's mother's maiden name is or how many home runs he's kicked or how many fly balls he's scored? Maybe it is! Because we're talking about professional sports here, and that's big business, with lots of money in it, even if most of us think of it as a thing where you wear hats and gloves, but in the summer, and sing songs while you're stretching, and drink overpriced crap beer.

Still, the Department of Justice and FBI are taking this very seriously, because cybercrime is cybercrime, even if these unsophisticated cybercrimers were, as investigators believe, just trying to straight up mess with the Astros' general manager, Jeff Luhnow, who's apparently decent enough at general managing to help his team not suck so much. Maybe getting a look at his passwords or whatever porn he had bookmarked under "Taxes" could give the already superior Cardinals an edge, somehow, and make them even more better at baseballing? That certainly seems worth committing crimes, doesn't it?

“The F.B.I. aggressively investigates all potential threats to public and private sector systems,” an F.B.I. spokeswoman said. “Once our investigations are complete, we pursue all appropriate avenues to hold accountable those who pose a threat in cyberspace.”

Good to know, and we're sure the feds will get to the bottom of this so we can all go back to enjoying the innocent, but Very Serious, game America so loves.

[NYT]

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