BOSTON (CBS) -- I really thought it was a New England thing.
Bill Belichick seems to revel in his public persona as being a bit prickly. Tom Brady, his time as America's darling long expired, seems too polished, too perfect. And those damn Patriots -- every single year, they just keep winning and winning and winning. Four Super Bowl victories in 14 years, six conference titles, an average of 11 wins per season, and that smug, unapologetic face of Belichick behind it all. Certainly, I can see why so many people get tired of it, and certainly, I understand why so many people are eager to take Patriots cheating accusations and run with them. Illogical as the claims may be, I understand their origins.
I thought this was a condition exclusive to New England.
But I was wrong.
Enter Bill Plaschke.
The Los Angeles Times columnist found time to take a break from writing Yasiel Puig hit pieces to write the worst sports story in America on Tuesday. The worst. And it's not even close.
The headline: "FBI probe of Cardinals makes it fair to question series with Dodgers."
So, in case you somehow missed it, The New York Times broke the story Tuesday which detailed the FBI's investigation into the St. Louis Cardinals. Several members of the St. Louis front office allegedly hacked into the Houston Astros' information database, reportedly finding "internal discussions about trades, proprietary statistics and scouting reports" from former Cardinals executive Jeff Luhnow, who is currently the Houston Astros' GM.
It is without a doubt a massive story, as the alleged perpetrators could face jail time. But from a baseball standpoint, was there really a ton to be gained from accessing this information? If Cardinals executives read a scouting report about some potential draft pick last March, or if they had unfettered access to Houston's private trade talks with other teams, would it help the big league players hit a baseball in any way, shape or form?
Of course, it would not. So while the FBI investigation could end up damaging the reputation of the St. Louis front office, only a fool would seriously intimate that the hacks could have really affected results in MLB games.
Again, enter Plaschke.
Let's start with the man's lede.
After watching the planet's best pitcher [Clayton Kershaw] endure two unimaginable meltdowns in the same situation to the same team in consecutive Octobers, some Dodgers fans began to wonder.
Were the St. Louis Cardinals cheating?
Maybe not, but now federal authorities think they may be cheaters.
For one, no Dodgers fans wondered if the Cardinals were cheating -- at least, only Dodgers fans wearing tinfoil hats would wonder such a thing. And secondly, when you wrote "maybe not," you probably should have just stepped away from the laptop and called it a day.
Nevertheless, you persisted.
Plaschke wrote: "Just call them the New England Cardinals … or maybe the St. Louis Patriots."
The prerequisite Patriots jab taken care of, Plaschke continued.
"There is no evidence the Cardinals' alleged spying involved any team other than the Astros," he wrote, again with a sentence that should have ended the story. "When asked Tuesday, the Dodgers publicly dismissed speculation their postseason losses involved any sort of digital espionage."
Plaschke must have left out the part where the Dodgers spokesman asked him, "Bro, are you serious?" before laughing hysterically.
"Yet, just as any NFL team can raise their eyebrows after the Patriots' Delfategate and Spygate, so too can Dodgers fans now reasonably wonder," said Plaschke, managing to misspell "deflate" and kill the cause of anyone trying to bury the Patriots all at once.
"If the Cardinals would sneak into an opponent's computer, which is a federal crime and far worse than deflating a few footballs, what else would they do to gain an edge?" Plaschke pondered. "If they would cheat against a long-struggling team such as the Astros, why wouldn't they cheat to beat the richest team in baseball and their Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw?"
By God -- Plaschke is right!
If they're willing to use passwords that Luhnow sloppily never changed so that they could access data about baseball players, how far are these psychopaths willing to go? Where does it stop? Stealing signs? Slashing tires? Robbing a bank?! MURDERING PEOPLE?! It's hard to say.
(By the way: I love Clayton Kershaw as much as the next guy, but does Plaschke think the Phillies also hacked into some system to smack Kershaw around the yard for eight earned runs in 8.2 postseason innings for an 8.31 ERA? Or might our boy Clay get a little antsy come October?)
"So much of the Cardinals success was so eerie, Dodgers fans wondered whether this so-called model franchise was actually a model of deceit," Plaschke wrote.
At this point, I feel badly for Dodgers fans, having this man decide that he has the right to serve as their mouthpiece. I sincerely question any Dodgers fan thinking about this until seeing Plaschke's column. I also start to wonder if this thing was written satirically. But given Plaschke's history, I have to believe this story is 100 percent sincere. (If it's satire, then the joke's on me. But even if that wasn't the intended purpose of the story, I'd advise Bill to claim he was joking all along. Because this thing doesn't get any better. Let's continue.)
"The FBI investigation doesn't address those fears but it certainly validates them," Plaschke leaps to assert. "Two years' worth of complaints now seem less like sour grapes and more like common sense."
And it gets worse.
Plaschke goes on to explain that former Cardinals pitcher Joe Kelly pegged Hanley Ramirez with a pitch two years ago in the playoffs, cracking one of Ramirez's ribs and essentially neutralizing L.A.'s best hitter for the entirety of the series. This is something that happens in baseball. Pitchers hit batters -- sometimes by accident, sometimes on purpose. It has nothing to do with what front-office members might have seen on a computer months prior. It's just ... sort of ... baseball.
But according to Plaschke, the order to Kelly came all the way from the top. Maybe.
"Because it occurred in the first half inning of the series," Plaschke wrote, "would it be so surprising if it was organizationally planned and ordered?"
Did the order come down from manager Mike Matheny? From GM John Mozeliak? From owner Bill DeWitt? FROM PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA?!?!
We don't know how deep this thing goes. Fortunately, we've got Plaschke to do our digging.
Plaschke moves on to describe Kershaw's struggles against the Cardinals in the past two postseasons, but he also noted that Kershaw allowed zero earned runs over six innings in his first NLCS start against St. Louis in 2013. I guess the Cardinals didn't have access to the super-secret information that night, but they then tapped into it before roughing up Kershaw in Game 6.
Might the Cardinals have been stealing signs?
"Stealing signs by simply looking at the catcher is part of the game — if you don't like it, change your signs," Plaschke wrote, before really cracking this whole case. "But who knows if that's all the Cardinals were doing?"
Who knows, baby!
That's what I'm talking about. That's the basis of all great investigations, and it's lock-solid reasoning for assuming a team cheated to win a baseball game.
(Kershaw also dismissed Plaschke's conspiracy, telling him, "Stealing pitches isn't a criminal act. It's part of the game.")
(Catcher A.J. Ellis also debunked Plaschke's theory, telling him that "the team's pitching plan was not kept digitally and would be impossible to steal.")
(How many warning signs to not write a bad story must one man ignore in one day?!)
Mercifully, Plaschke concluded: "But still … were the Dodgers beaten by the Cardinal Way, or the Cardinal Con? It might be unfair to reach that conclusion, but it is now fair to ask that question."
No, Bill. No it is really not. Thank you for your column though. If you could write one with a premise that's this ridiculous, what will your next story be about? Who knows!
Toucher & Rich spent some time Wednesday morning discussing the criminal allegations of the St. Louis Cardinals, but were forced to call the Hot Take Police after reading Bill Plaschke's latest column in the Los Angeles Times. Listen below!
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