It would probably take a hacker to find out what Theo Epstein really thinks about the St. Louis Cardinals being investigated by the FBI and Justice Department for allegedly breaking into the Houston Astros’ database.
Maybe the Cubs president sent a few text messages to his buddies or wound up on an e-mail chain after this bombshell report from The New York Times exposed The Cardinal Way.
But Epstein didn’t want to talk trash about the franchise’s biggest rival during his media session before Tuesday’s 6-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field.
“We have a lot on our plate in this organization,” Epstein said. “I’m not going to get into other organizations’ business. But I’m glad it wasn’t us.”
This isn’t working the backchannels the Cubs may or may not have used in hiring Epstein away from the Boston Red Sox after the 2011 season, and luring manager Joe Maddon with a five-year, $25 million contract last fall. This isn’t the Tampa Bay Rays forcing Major League Baseball to launch a Maddon tampering investigation.
This could be white-collar crime, with MLB and St. Louis officials reportedly getting subpoenaed after the Cardinals accessed “Ground Control.” It will be fascinating to see what this means for the rest of the National League Central.
This appears to be personal. Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow spent eight years with the Cardinals, helping rebuild the scouting-and-player-development machine and leaving after the 2011 World Series title.
Luhnow is a polarizing figure within the industry, someone who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, got his MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and worked as a consultant at McKinsey & Company.
Around this time last year, the Astros granted special access to Sports Illustrated and made the cover as “YOUR 2017 WORLD SERIES CHAMPS.” And then got embarrassed when short-form notes on trade talks were shared anonymously on Anonbin.com and spotlighted on Deadspin, the influential sports website.
That data breach forced the Cubs to take another look at their own proprietary system.
“We double-checked our security protocols,” Epstein said. “When I started working in baseball, I never thought I’d utter those words. But, yeah, we did.
“The guys doing our software are a thousand times smarter than I am, and they have all that covered. They definitely understand the importance of security.”
With Luhnow doing it his way, the Astros are in first place in the American League West after losing 310 games combined across the last three seasons.
The Cubs seem to be forever chasing the Cardinals. Last year, Epstein complained about St. Louis taking handouts in the form of competitive-balance draft picks: “That’s probably the last organization in baseball that needs that kind of annual gift.”
But any reporters hoping Epstein would go in that direction again walked away disappointed.
“We have our own issues to occupy our mind,” Epstein said. “You just take the proper steps, the same way if you have your scouting reports in triplicate in a file cabinet somewhere. You lock the file cabinet. You lock the front door. It’s the equivalent on a computer. You just make sure you know who’s in there – and that it’s really hard to get in there.”
Epstein has a very sharp sense of humor and appeared to be in a good mood with top prospect Kyle Schwarber about to make his big-league debut, the Blackhawks bringing the Stanley Cup to Wrigleyville and the Cubs now emerging as contenders.
Epstein referenced a beat writer’s first name after listening to another question about the Cardinals and computers.
“Yes, we are changing our passwords from ‘GordonSucks’ to something else,” Epstein joked.