Ben Reiter: ‘Cardinals Scandal Worse Than Deflategate, Spygate’

If you’re a St. Louis Cardinals fan, well, you should probably be concerned – because these hacking-scandal accusations aren’t going away anytime soon.

In fact, Sports Illustrated writer Ben Reiter believes the accusations – that the Cardinals hacked into the Houston Astros’ scouting database – are way worse than anything we saw with Deflategate.

“It absolutely is,” Reiter said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “I think it’s pretty clear that it’s worse than Deflategate. It’s also worse than Spygate, really. Those things, no matter how you look at them, could be construed as a matter of gamesmanship, trying to gain in-game advantage, advantages within the sport. This is quite simply a federal crime that officials with the Cardinals are accused of. It’s really something that is unprecedented in the history of sport. This thing is really only beginning. I think it’s only going to get uglier and uglier as the days and weeks go on.”

The key figure in this saga is Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, who joined the Cardinals’ front office in 2003 and made his presence felt immediately, steering the franchise toward a more analytical, data-driven approach to scouting, drafting and development. He had a great deal of success in St. Louis before heading to Houston in 2011.

“It seems clear that certain people within the Cardinals’ organization were skeptical of all the newfangled techniques that he brought to them and (were) kind of more than innocently interested (in) what he continues to be up to in Houston,” Reiter said. “He was obviously extremely talented. (He) really brought innovation to the most traditional of sports, which is baseball. Anytime you have an innovator in a really high-bound environment, they’re going to get a lot of push-back, a lot of skeptics. The really annoying part for the Cardinals (was) what he did worked. They killed draft after draft after draft.”

Twenty percent of the Cardinals’ 2013 World Series roster was from a single draft that Luhnow had overseen four years prior. After joining Houston in December 2011, however, the Astros went 55-107 in 2012 an 51-111 in 2013.

“He continued to take a whole lot of flack for the first three or four years of his general manager tenure there in Houston,” Reiter said. “These are some of the worst teams baseball has ever seen, but he had a plan. He brought every smart analyst with him, who he believed in, who he believed could implement that plan.”

The plan, it seems, is working. After going 70-92 last year, the Astros are 39-28, on pace to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2008 and could make the playoffs for the first time since 2005, when they got swept in the World Series.

“It’s pretty notable that just as this thing’s breaking, we look up and here the Astros, shockingly, are in first place in the AL West,” Reiter said. “There’s no question at this point that this is a guy that nows what he’s doing – even if he does it differently.”

But why did the Cardinals do this? This is a franchise with 11 world championships.

“Yeah, there’s a whole lot about this story that we don’t know,” Reiter said. “Among the things we don’t know is exactly who in the Cardinals – if they did do this – which members of the front office perpetrated it? Did this go high up? Or was this just a few low-level rogue employee looking to have some fun? We also don’t exactly know their motivations for doing this. Were they trying to embarrass Jeff Luhnow by hacking his system? Were they trying to seek revenge on him for some reason? It’s really kind of hard to figure. Because when you look at it from any possible angle, it just doesn’t seem as if the juice is worth the squeeze. . . . None of that seems to be worth the committing of a federal crime, a felony, which is what this is. Some things are still not adding up and there’s still a whole lot of details as far as the perpetrators and why they did this that are going to come to light.”

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