DOJ Is Back On The Baseball Beat; Is Their Past Prologue?

Clems-Investigation-MapWhile it is not quite as exciting as Trump!-mania, the other news this morning is that DOJ is getting back into the baseball game. Having brought responsibility to the financial sector, sent the Wall Street scourges all to prison, and accountability to out of control warrior cops, DOJ is now focused like a laser on computer hacking by the St. Louis Cardinals. From the New York Times:

The F.B.I. and Justice Department prosecutors are investigating whether front-office officials for the St. Louis Cardinals, one of the most successful teams in baseball over the past two decades, hacked into internal networks of a rival team to steal closely guarded information about player personnel.

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.

The officials did not say which employees were the focus of the investigation or whether the team’s highest-ranking officials were aware of the hacking or authorized it. The investigation is being led by the F.B.I.’s Houston field office and has progressed to the point that subpoenas have been served on the Cardinals and Major League Baseball for electronic correspondence.

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.

Ay caramba, so the, arguably consistently best organization in MLB, the Cardinals, was hacking the consistently worst, or close thereto, team the Astros, in an effort to get ahead? Who is running the Cardinals these days, Bill Belichick? This is almost too stupid to be true, but there it is, in glaring black and white. Hard not to smell a full blown Congressional hearing inquest coming too, because that is just how they roll on The Hill. Maybe after their summer vacation.

But, all kidding aside, while the US government does not have a reputation for securing their own networks, it is scary to think what resources may be spent on what is effectively a civil matter between two baseball teams. It is always instructive to remember the ridiculous amount of time and money DOJ expended fruitlessly pursuing Roger Clemens. If you had forgotten my report on the DOJ Clemens absurdity, in its full graphical clarity, from almost exactly three years ago, click on and embiggen the graphic above, which is an official DOJ creation by the way, and recall all its sickening glory.

This is without even getting into the idiotic, and humiliatingly losing, pursuit DOJ made of Barry Bonds. It is hard to tell where DOJ is going, or how far it will go, with this excursion into a pissing match between two professional sports franchises, but if past is prologue, count on DOJ wasting an absolute ton of your and my tax money.

So, when the Department of Justice and Executive Branch come hat in hand screaming for more “cyber” resources and funding, remember just what it is they are doing with that money and those resources to date. And remember just how terminally stupid this case, and DOJ investigation into it, really is.

Bmaz is a rather large saguaro cactus in the Southwestern Sonoran desert. A lover of the Constitution, law, family, sports, food and spirits. As you might imagine, a bit prickly occasionally. Bmaz has attended all three state universities in Arizona, with both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Arizona State University, and with significant post-graduate work (in physics and organic chemistry, go figure) at both the University of Colorado in Boulder and the University of Arizona. Married, with both a lovely child and a giant Sasquatch dog. Bmaz has been a participant on the internet since the early 2000’s, including active participation in the precursor to Emptywheel, The Next Hurrah. Formally joined the Emptywheel blog as an original contributing member at its founding in 2007. Bmaz grew up around politics, education, sports and, most significantly, cars; notably around Formula One racing and Concours de Elegance automobile restoration and showing. Currently lives in the Cactus Patch with his lovely wife and beast of a dog, and practices both criminal and civil trial law.
21 replies
  1. bloopie2 says:

    My thoughts exactly, thank you for noting them so well. And while I have you on the line, a question for a criminal defense lawyer. Assume you are defending a case that may turn on eyewitness identification of your defendant, and you want to challenge the ID. How about doing a reverse image search on Google, with photo of your defendant, and see if anyone similar-looking turns up? If so, and if they are/were physically “in the neighborhood” so as to be possible alternatives, present them as such, or at least in some way as to suggest the notorious unreliability of eyewitness ID. What do you think? Technology/surveillance is making lots of things possible these days. Maybe keep your client out of the courtroom until that witness has testified, so as to not allow her to be able to say, “No, that’s obviously not him, he’s right there and I can see him”? Just another offbeat thought of mine, thank you, It’s the afternoon here, the mind is starting to wander. I think maybe DOJ should next hack Kelly Olynyk to see if he was bribed to injure Kevin Love; that would be a good use of the taxpayer $$ of this Cavs fan.
    .
    Pedantry of the day: Your headline has “DOJ” as both singular and plural. (I know, you’re going to shut me off soon.) :)

    • bmaz says:

      I am a man of many, and confusing, tenses.

      I have a couple of times, though not recently, had my client sit in the public pews in the back during trial and let the defendant identify the person sitting with me at the defense table as “the guy who did it”. Worked great one time, the second one the court was livid and screamed at me. Haven’t done it again, but might consider it.

  2. Mick Savage says:

    I can’t resist.
    Appointed justice apostle Lynch loves the smell of FIFA in the morning along with the ride of the valkyries…
    LIBOR anyone? Try it with this chardonnay?

  3. JohnT says:

    Yea, although the Astros are good this year … huh? Why take a chance on a bad team?
    .
    And what made the DOJ think to begin an investigation?
    .
    PS if anyone’s interested, I have another police brutality post (click my name)

  4. Jeff Kaye says:

    Hells Bells! First the Black Sox scandal, and now this! We gotta get the pool halls out of small-town America, and quick! Get the FBI on this right away, before the No. Koreans bug all the eight-balls in America!

  5. Bay State Librul says:

    As long as the DOJ stays away from hiring Teddy Boy as their consultant, I’ll be happy.

    ——————————————
    Brady’s lawyers will offer this as Exhibit A
    —————————————————-
    A new player has now entered the field of play — the American Enterprise Institute, the Washington-based, right-wing think tank. The AEI’s full report is available online, but its conclusion is the equivalent of a completed 75-yard Hail Mary pass. The AEI, which certainly has no political agenda in this football dispute, concludes that the Wells Report is “deeply flawed.” Anyone who read the Wells Report and the Goldberg response had already reached that conclusion. What is particularly telling about the AEI’s study is that it offers an alternate explanation for the actual facts.

    ——————

    The NFL was not interested in the facts

  6. 4jkb4ia says:

    The unique bmaz perspective is actually valuable here. I was viewing this case as a sheer catastrophe. If DOJ can prove that they did it, this reinforces all the Deadspin-fed stereotypes about the Cardinals being smug and arrogant. Their reputation really in some cases is a baseball team’s wealth. Reputation can get people like Ozzie Smith and Jason Hayward and Matt Holliday to be happy to play here possibly for less money.

    The link may not be good anymore, BUT despite the deficiency of R&B-Hip-Hop Songs these days, Drake’s ENTIRE ALBUM made it the week of its release I cannot, however, win an argument on who bmaz thinks deserves to be iconic.

    • Bay State Librul says:

      Agreed
      ——————–

      The larger issue is who sets DOJ priorities, and how do you determine the cost/benefit
      ratio to proceed with cases. I imagine that DOJ can chew gum and also go after Bankers
      with huge paybacks.

      ———————-

      Hacking , drugs, and lying are crimes. So you let MLB and the NFL deal internally with
      their problems and let them mete out judgment, so we can bitch with the Commissioners decisions rather than DOJ.

      ———————–

      Good for Sports Radio Talk Shows.

      ———————————————

      ——————————

  7. What Constitution? says:

    Hey, maybe one good thing about having the DOJ handle this kind of lawsuit instead of the parties themselves in a civil suit — the DOJ probably has all the electronic evidence sitting on a hard drive, courtesy of the NSA, already. Saves time in discovery, fer sure.

  8. dakine01 says:

    My first thoughts when I heard the Cardinals had hacked Houston’s database followed yours, as in WTF? But this article from Tom Verducci at Sports Illustrated does offer a viable explanation. It seems the Astros GM was formerly part of ST Louis’ baseball staff and builds from there

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