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.

MLB crowds jump from ’21, still below pre-pandemic levels

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PHOENIX — Even with the homer heroics of sluggers like Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, Major League Baseball wasn’t able to coax fans to ballparks at pre-pandemic levels this season, though attendance did jump substantially from the COVID-19 affected campaign in 2021.

The 30 MLB teams drew nearly 64.6 million fans for the regular season that ended Wednesday, which is up from the 45.3 million who attended games in 2021, according to baseball-reference.com. This year’s numbers are still down from the 68.5 million who attended games in 2019, which was the last season that wasn’t affected by the pandemic.

The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with 3.86 million fans flocking to Dodger Stadium for an average of 47,672 per contest. The Oakland Athletics – who lost 102 games, play in an aging stadium and are the constant subject of relocation rumors – finished last, drawing just 787,902 fans for an average of less than 10,000 per game.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished second, drawing 3.32 million fans. They were followed by the Yankees (3.14 million), defending World Series champion Braves (3.13 million) and Padres (2.99 million).

The Toronto Blue Jays saw the biggest jump in attendance, rising from 805,901 fans to about 2.65 million. They were followed by the Cardinals, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Mets, which all drew more than a million fans more than in 2021.

The Rangers and Reds were the only teams to draw fewer fans than in 2021.

Only the Rangers started the 2021 season at full capacity and all 30 teams weren’t at 100% until July. No fans were allowed to attend regular season games in 2020.

MLB attendance had been declining slowly for years – even before the pandemic – after hitting its high mark of 79.4 million in 2007. This year’s 64.6 million fans is the fewest in a non-COVID-19 season since the sport expanded to 30 teams in 1998.

The lost attendance has been balanced in some ways by higher viewership on the sport’s MLB.TV streaming service. Viewers watched 11.5 billion minutes of content in 2022, which was a record high and up nearly 10% from 2021.