The Cardinals have been one of MLB’s model franchises over the past 15 years, reaching the World Series four times since 2000 and winning two championships.
This year, St. Louis has the best record in baseball — humming along at 42-21, an absurd 108-win pace that includes a 3-2 victory over the Twins on Monday.
But according to a New York Times report on Tuesday, the Cardinals could be at the heart of a cheating scandal that would put make anything done by another of the sporting world’s most successful franchises — the NFL’s Patriots — pale in comparison.
Per the Times:
The F.B.I and Justice Department prosecutors are investigating whether front-office officials for the St. Louis Cardinals … hacked into 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.
MLB is aware of the investigation and is cooperating, per the report.
But it gets better:
Law enforcement officials believe the hacking was executed by vengeful front-office employees for the Cardinals hoping to wreak havoc on the work of Jeff Luhnow, the Astros’ general manager who had been a successful and polarizing executive with the Cardinals until 2011.
It is believed that these employees gained access to the Astros’ database by using a master list of passwords Luhnow had assembled in his time with the Cardinals.
If so, that’s flat-out stealing and a massive cheating scandal that shouldn’t just cost the guilty their jobs. I don’t think it’s crazy to say a postseason ban would be in order.
The Vikings released veteran safety Taylor Mays this morning.
The Vikings signed Mays, who played for coach Mike Zimmer in Cincinnati, to a one-year contract in March. But Mays, based on the organized team activities open to the media this spring, was buried on the depth chart.
Robert Blanton, who started 13 games at safety last season, has been back with fellow safety Harrison Smith and the first-team defense. Andrew Sendejo, who made three starts last year, and second-year safety Antone Exum received the majority of the snaps with the second unit.
A second-round pick of the 49ers in 2010, Mays joined the Bengals in 2011 and played 50 games for them, mostly as a backup. He had a significant role as a sub-package defender with Zimmer as his defensive coordinator.
Mays was expected to be given a similar role here, but the selection of versatile middle linebacker Eric Kendricks — who will line up beside college teammate Anthony Barr — could have changed their plans.
The Vikings have six safeties on the roster now following Mays’ release.
Mays signed a $795,000 contract, but only $25,000 of it was guaranteed.
In five NFL seasons, Mays made 98 tackles, recorded one sack and forced one fumble. He broke up six passes and has yet to pick off a pass.
One game into his major league career and phenom Byron Buxton can’t even get ahead of the pitcher in the Twins’ lineup.
(Yes, that’s a joke … the very type of joke I noted in the last much more serious Buxton post).
It’s a joke, but it’s also true. For the first time in Minnesota Twins history (and the first time in overall franchise history since 1950, per Keith Leventhal), a Twins pitcher is batting eighth while a position player bats ninth. Granted, the Twins have had far fewer opportunities to test out this type of lineup than a National League team, but it’s still interesting.
In this case, it’s extra-interesting because Trevor May settles in one spot ahead of Buxton under NL rules Monday in St. Louis.
It certainly continues an early trend that suggests new manager Paul Molitor isn’t afraid to try different things because while this order has been embraced by Tony LaRussa and now the Cubs’ Joe Maddon (who has used the pitcher in the 8-hole all season long, his first managing an NL team), it’s still something a lot of baseball fans look at sideways.
The biggest question: Is it smart baseball? The short answer? It really doesn’t seem to matter that much.
Russell A. Carleton of Baseball Prospectus wrote a piece for Fox Sports in which he analyzed the numbers and determined that over the course of a 162-game season, batting the pitcher eighth instead of ninth would add 0.6 runs. That’s not per game. That’s over the course of a season. Part of a run.
And that’s without accounting for other individual factors — namely how good the offensive player being displaced to the No. 9 hole is, since that player over the course of a season will get slightly fewer at-bats than if he was in the No. 8 spot.
The logic of doing it the way the Twins are doing it makes sense, however, in the big picture as well: Minnesota’s best hitters are at the top of the lineup and there’s a better chance they will hit with a runner on base (and a speedy one at that) if Buxton is hitting 9th instead of some inning-killing pitcher.
That said, in his conclusion Carleton writes this:
“I get the fascination with pitchers hitting eighth. It’s new. It looks daring. It’s just that once you take everything into account, it doesn’t really buy you anything more than a little cool quotient. It doesn’t really help all that much in a best-case scenario, and it doesn’t hurt all that much if everything goes wrong. Compared to a traditional pitcher-hits-ninth lineup, it’s pretty much break even.”
Indeed, the whole thing is probably much ado about nothing — though if the flipped order plays even a marginal role in how Monday’s game is decided, you can bet it will be a heavy point of discussion postgame.
For my money, If Molitor really wanted to be daring, he’d hit May third and Joe Mauer ninth. That would give the haters something to talk about.
The Vikings wrap up their offseason workout program this week and set the stage for training camp with their three-day mandatory minicamp.
With Adrian Peterson back in the fold, there is not much drama for the Vikings, who have had a quiet offseason beyond the Peterson saga. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be intrigue out at Winter Park starting Tuesday.
Unfortunately, the minicamp is not open to the public. But media can watch all three days. Here are five storylines we’ll keep our eyes on for you.
1. Who will line up with first-team offensive line?
The configuration of the line for Week 1 won’t be determined until training camp and the preseason, when the linemen will actually be in pads. But this week’s minicamp could give us a hint about the preferred quintet. Matt Kalil and Brandon Fusco have manned the left side of the line this spring with John Sullivan anchoring the line at center. Michael Harris seems to be a placeholder at right tackle until the injured Phil Loadholt can return to team drills. The right guard spot, though, has been a revolving door, with T.J. Clemmings, Tyrus Thompson and David Yankey all getting snaps with the ones. Will one of them seize pole position heading into training camp?
2. Will any of the injured starters return this week?
Loadholt is not fully back after undergoing pectoral surgery last November. Defensive end Brian Robison injured his pectoral early in the spring and has been sidelined. Linebacker Anthony Barr has been out with a mystery ailment (it’s not his knee, we know that much). And cornerback Captain Munnerlyn injured his foot at the start of OTAs. Head coach Mike Zimmer is hopeful that those guys will take steps forward in their recoveries this week. Of those four, the injuries to Robison and Barr are most concerning.
3. Can Cordarrelle Patterson get back with the ones?
Throughout the spring workouts open to media, the Vikings consistently ran wide receivers Mike Wallace, Charles Johnson and Jarius Wright with the first-team offense. Patterson was with the second-stringers, usually snagging passes from backup quarterback Shaun Hill. Has Patterson made enough strides to get another chance to click with Teddy Bridgewater?
4. Where will top draft pick Trae Waynes be lining up?
Zimmer isn’t handing anything to Waynes. The young cornerback has mostly been with the second unit and has been getting a significant amount of snaps in the slot instead of on the outside. Waynes will be in the mix to start this summer — maybe sooner than later with a strong minicamp.
5. Who will have a leg up in the competition at safety?
Robert Blanton, despite losing his starting job to Andrew Sendejo late last season, was back next to Harrison Smith in the spring workouts open to the media. Will he keep hogging all the first-team reps or will Sendejo, Taylor Mays or intriguing second-year safety Antone Exum get opportunities?