Hacked: Cards expose Moneyball’s strategic vulnerabilities …

Moneyball – the Oakland As use of data  and metrics to ID undervalued players —  was one of the  major catalysts for the current rage around big data and data analytics.

The Houston Astro’s  were one of the teams to adopt the Moneyball philosophy in a big way.

This week, the NY Times broke the story that the St. Louis Cardinals had hacked into Astro’s proprietary database.

Big news.

In fact, this hack seemed to get more media time than  the Chinese jacking the personal info of all government employees.



Baseball competition aside, here’s why I think there’s a big teaching point in the story


First, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that no database is totally secure.

Not the governments’ databases (think, personnel records, IRS data, ObamaCare info), not companies’ databases (think, Sony and Target) … and certainly not sports teams.

What that means is that predatory hackers can let somebody else do the heavy lifting and deep thinking … and then pounce to snatch the data, ideas and algorithms.


Sure … but, often undetected (until too late) and unpunished (e.g. how to prove the Chinese did it, and what punishment to dish out?).


And, there’s a broader business strategy question raised:

How long can a team or a company sustain a competitive advantage from big data and data analytics?

Organizations only have competitive advantage if the data and rules stay proprietary, i.e. confidential.

But, because of loose lips and personnel movements —  from team to team, company to company –the rules become common knowledge pretty quickly.

It didn’t take long for all baseball teams to start tracking on-base-percentages, right?

It didn’t take long for all casinos to start giving players loyalty cards and tracking their slots plays.

The point: most ideas are easily copied … in essence, if not directly and literally.

Proprietary data provides an advantage … until it’s hacked.

Heads up !


Side note: Unlike most folks, I want Congress to investigate the Cards – Astros hack.

Not because I think it’s that big a deal, but because it would distract them from messing up other things.



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2 Responses to “Hacked: Cards expose Moneyball’s strategic vulnerabilities …”

  1. Steve Says:

    If you have something that proprietary, why hook that database up to the Internet? You can import data from secondary sources (flash memory, CD, etc.); it may require a little extra time to do it, but it’s worth it when you consider the risk of a hack on your competitive advantage. I’m not saying that this strategy would work for everyone because of the amount of data a company may need, but in the case of MLB when you have a finite number of players and games, daily uploads by other means is pretty simple.

    In the 1990s I did consulting work in the IT space; one of our clients was Altria (parent of Philip Morris). We had to send them data CDs when we needed to give them any kind of electronic media (spread sheets, documents, reports, etc.) because they were so paranoid of hacks designed to extract internal studies and documents from their database; they had an internal network at their offices in NYC but no access to the outside Internet. I don’t know if this is still the case with them given the proliferation of the Internet and the need to use it as part of day-to-day business, but I’d bet they still have all sensitive data on servers that cannot be accessed by an outside computer.

  2. John Says:

    Let’s get even sneaker here. Place your proprietary stuff on an internal network and the stuff you want people to steal on one connected to the Internet. Wouldn’t it be funny if the Chinese had bad data….or the Cardinals.

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