Up to now, it's been possible to respect them, even while disliking them. After this news broke Tuesday morning, though, I don't think respect is possible any longer:
The F.B.I. and Justice Department prosecutors are investigating front-office officials for the St. Louis Cardinals, one of the most successful teams in baseball over the past two decades, for hacking into the 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.
This is serious business, beyond jokes that have already been made on Twitter about "Astros? Why?" (The "why" could be as simple as the fact that Astros GM Jeff Luhnow worked for many years for the Cardinals before departing for Houston in December 2011.) This isn't an investigation by Major League Baseball, which tends to drag its feet on things like this (look how long it took them to clear the Cubs of tampering charges in the Joe Maddon hire, for example). This is a criminal investigation that could -- I emphasize "could," since no charges have even been filed yet -- result in prison time for Cardinals officials. We don't yet know, as the article notes, how high this goes in the Cardinals organization, or who's involved.
It's reprehensible behavior, if proven to be true. Let's see how big a deal the national media makes over this, considering the recent media craziness over some deflated footballs. This is a much bigger deal. Beyond any criminal penalties that might come out of this, I think MLB has to consider some sort of penalties baseball-wise for the Cardinals. Forfeited draft picks and large fines come to mind. MLB issued the following statement this morning:
"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. Once the investigative process has been completed by federal law enforcement officials, we will evaluate the next steps and will make decisions promptly."
Thought you would all want a place to discuss this huge story. While the Cardinals are the Cubs' arch-rival and this could help the Cubs somewhere down the road, please be respectful in your discussion. I'd appreciate that.