The FBI is reportedly investigating whether officials within the St. Louis Cardinals organization hacked into a Houston Astros database of player information.
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Cardinals Fire Front Office Official
Thursday, July 2
The Cardinals have fired scouting director Chris Correa, according to Robert Patrick and Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
On June 16, Michael S. Schmidt of the New York Times reported that the Cardinals were concerned that former front-office official Jeff Luhnow, whom the Astros hired as general manager in December 2011, was using a computer network similar to the one they used in St. Louis. They looked into passwords used by Luhnow and other staff members who joined him in Houston to gain entrance into the Astros' system:
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.
The hackers attempted to "mask" themselves, but "weren't very good at what they were trying to do", per Schmidt.
On June 17, general manager John Mozeliak and CEO Bill DeWitt released a statement on the investigation, according to MLB On Fox:
Bob Nightengale of USA Today provided more comments from Mozeliak:
Unequivocally,'' Mozeliak said, "I knew nothing about this. I don't know the outcome of this, or where it's going to go, but our hope is that when everything comes to light, people will realize that it wasn't something that was organizational-wide. It shouldn't be something that takes away from any of the success this organization has had.
On June 19, Ben Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reported "the Cardinals had unauthorized access to Astros information as early as 2012, a year earlier than was previously known."
On June 18, Astros general manager Jeff Lunhow discussed the hack with Ben Reiter of Sports Illustrated, and denied it occurred because he had been using an outdated password:
“That’s absolutely false,” said Luhnow, who worked as a technology executive before he began his career in baseball. “I absolutely know about password hygiene and best practices. I’m certainly aware of how important passwords are, as well as of the importance of keeping them updated. A lot of my job in baseball, as it was in high tech, is to make sure that intellectual property is protected. I take that seriously and hold myself and those who work for me to a very high standard.”
Lunhow also discussed his relationship with the Cardinals, saying “I actually got along very well with everybody with the Cardinals. I was friendly with the people I left behind there... This wasn’t a bad breakup. It was a happy promotion of a person to a higher position in another organization," per Reiter.
Lunhow told Reiter that the impact of the hack had been significant:
At the time when it happened a year ago, it was like coming home and seeing your house has been broken into. You feel violated when someone does that without permission. As far as whether it affected our ability to execute our plan? It's difficult to assess the effect, but we have continued to execute our plan and we are making progress. I had to call the other 29 GMs and apologize that private notes our organization had made had been made public. Those were not fun calls to make. But I’ve made several trades since then, and I’ve had no problems getting anybody on the phone.
It's unclear which members of the Cardinals organization knew about the hack and whether it was directed by high-ranking officials or was a rogue move by an employee. The report stated that subpoenas were served to both the Cardinals and Major League Baseball as part of the investigation.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports added more detail regarding where the alleged hack took place:
One official familiar with the investigation told Yahoo Sports the FBI traced the breach back to a house in Jupiter, Fla., the city in which the Cardinals hold spring training. A number of Cardinals employees used the house, according to the official, perhaps complicating authorities' ability to pinpoint the alleged culprits. The assistant U.S. attorney handling the potential case in Houston is Michael Chu, whose areas of focus include computer hacking and intellectual property.
A spokesperson for commissioner Rob Manfred told the New York Times that MLB "has been aware of and has fully cooperated with the federal investigation into the illegal breach of the Astros' baseball operations database."
The league issued a further statement, saying: "Major League Baseball has been aware of and has fully cooperated with the federal investigation into the illegal breach of the Astros' baseball operations database. Once the investigative process has been completed by federal law enforcement officials, we will evaluate the next steps and will make decisions promptly," via ESPN.com
Michael McCann of Sports Illustrated noted that the league's word choice in its statement was significant:
“The St. Louis Cardinals are aware of the investigation into the security breach of the Houston Astros’ database,” the team said in a statement, via Schmidt. “The team has fully cooperated with the investigation and will continue to do so. Given that this is an ongoing federal investigation, it is not appropriate for us to comment further.”
A Cardinals lawyer is "100% confident that these concerns do not touch upper management and specifically John Mozeliak and bill DeWiit," Robert Patrick of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Manager Mike Matheny said he was unaware the team was under investigation until Tuesday morning, per Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com.
The Cardinals have been one of the most consistently successful franchises in all of sports since 2000. They have made the playoffs 11 times during that span, including four straight postseason appearances from 2011-14, and won a pair of World Series titles in 2006 and 2011. They own the league's best record at 42-21 so far this season.
Passan noted that concerns about the news are already growing around the league:
For a sport that's still trying to completely shake off the impact off the Steroid Era, the last thing it needs is another major scandal. The league will hope it's an isolated incident and isn't as problematic as it sounds on paper.