Craig Calcaterra

The Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2015 — #19: The Cardinals hack the Astros database

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We’re a few short days away from 2016 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2015. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

In June two of my favorite forms of entertainment — baseball and espionage thrillers — converged as it was revealed that employees of the St. Louis Cardinals hacked into the scouting and analytics database of the Houston Astros.

The fact that someone hacked into the Astros’ “Ground Control” database, which is the club’s internal communication and evaluation system, had been known since 2014. No one suspected that the hackers were employed by another major league team until it was reported that the FBI was investigating, however. That’s when it was revealed that the focus of the investigation was the Cardinals organization.

The alleged impetus for the hack was both (a) concern that former Cards executive Jeff Luhnow took proprietary information with him when he left for Houston to become the Astros’ GM; and (b) lingering resentment over Lunhow’s tenure with the Cardinals, where he was reported to have been a polarizing figure. It was not a sophisticated hack, apparently, and there has been no indication that the Cards’ top brass directed it or were aware of it. So far the top head to roll has been Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa who was fired after an “imposed leave of absence” and who was reported to have admitted to breaking into the system.

It’s been over six months since the news broke, but the investigation is still ongoing. Law enforcement has not said anything, as they are likely considering whether to charge anyone with a crime (and make no mistake: it is a crime to hack into a baseball team’s database). Major League Baseball has kept mum about it as well. For now, we wait.

And when the waiting is over, what then? Perhaps an arrest or an indictment from the feds. Perhaps some penalties leveled upon the Cardinals by major league baseball, possibly in the form of financial or draft pick compensation. Perhaps more firings.

In the meantime: a lot of seminars about password and network security in major league front offices.

The Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2015 — #20: David Ortiz announces that the 2016 season will be his last

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We’re a few short days away from 2016 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2015. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

The Boston Red Sox of the past 15 years or so have had no shortage of superstars, but when the story of their three World Series championships between 2004 and 2013 is told, David Ortiz is now and always will be the star of the show. This coming season will be his curtain call, however, as he announced his retirement, a year in advance, in mid-November.

Ortiz started slowly in 2015 and, at 39, you never know when a slow start is more than just a slow start. Ortiz showed that he still had quite a bit left in the tank, however, finishing the year with a .273 batting average, 37 homers, 37 doubles, 77 walks, and a .913 OPS in 146 games. Ortiz also joined the 500-homer club late in the season.

Ortiz may not be as productive in 2016 — eventually all players decline — but even if he isn’t, it will be a year of farewells and retrospectives. As was the case with Derek Jeter, concerns about any present ineffectiveness will, most likely, be eclipsed by nostalgia. With Ortiz there is quite a bit of nostalgia to go around. Red Sox baseball of the past 15 years is unthinkable without Ortiz, both for his on-the-field exploits and his larger than life personality and leadership of both his team and his community.

There will likewise be a lot of debate about his Hall of Fame case. From this writer’s perspective, Ortiz is a no-brainer Hall of Famer. To date he’s a career .284/.378/.547 hitter. He has 503 homers and 1,641 RBI. His OPS is .925 and his OPS+ is 139. These numbers place Ortiz comfortably within the range of current Hall of Famers. Indeed, there are many worse hitters than Ortiz in Cooperstown whose primary argument for induction was their offensive output. And that’s before you get to the “fame” arguments, which clearly favor Ortiz’s induction. Some will deduct points because Ortiz is a designated hitter. This is lunacy, of course, as there have already been DHs inducted to the Hall of Fame and, more to the point, DH will have been an established position in baseball for nearly a half century by the time Ortiz is eligible for induction.

That’s an argument for another day, however. For now, we prepare for our farewells to Big Papi.

The Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2015 — #21: A bunch of voters were kicked off the Hall of Fame rolls

Cooperstown
Associated Press
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We’re a few short days away from 2016 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2015. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

Until this year, once a BBWAA member became eligible to vote for the Hall of Fame he or she got that vote for life. That meant that a great many voters who were no longer covering baseball — including many who never really covered baseball in a meaningful way — got a vote. Editors who oversaw baseball writers for a time. People who covered baseball for a few minutes during the Carter Administration but later went on to do other things.

As a result, a large portion of the Hall of Fame electorate was not comprised of experts in the field. Indeed, it was comprised of people who had less of a professional reason to keep up with baseball than many non-voters. It was just a club, really, out of which one could never be kicked despite their lack of engagement with the game. All the while getting to make baseball’s most important historic calls.

That changed in July when the Hall of Fame decided that BBWAA members who were more than ten years removed from actively covering the game would be taken off the voting rolls. It’s estimated that around 130 of the 650 active voters were removed from the pool.

Now that the dead wood is out, it’s possible that we’ll see some significant changes in the vote totals of some of the holdover candidates when results are announced for the 2016 Hall of Fame class next week. At least if the assumption that older voters are more likely to be harder on newer candidates or candidates with PED associations is true. This may not catapult Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens to Cooperstown, but it could give Tim Raines a decent bump in his second-to-last year on the ballot and could put Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza over the top and into the Hall.

Now, if the Hall of Fame would allow all BBWAA members to vote, and not just those with ten years of experience, we’d really be getting someplace. In the meantime, we’ll take this as a solid step forward.