The Astros Were Hacked by the Cardinals

Well, this is something. A year ago, internal messages and reports from the Houston Astros were leaked online, causing a good amount of embarrassment for the franchise. After the documents were leaked, the team’s General Manager Jeff Luhnow made the following statement:

t’s a very unfortunate circumstance. When somebody illegally from the outside breaks into a proprietary database that we have, not all the information that was published is accurate. Some of it is not. I really can’t get into what was accurate and what wasn’t. Some of it was. But it was an illegal activity and we’re going to pursue it and try to find out who did it and prosecute them because it’s not something that should be happening.

And then it was mostly forgotten about, at least publicly. Sure, people made jokes, but the story had faded from memory, and was in the past at this point. Until today, when the New York Times released this story.

The F.B.I. and Justice Department prosecutors are investigating front-office officials for the St. Louis Cardinals, one of the most successful teams in baseball over the past two decades, for hacking into the 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.

The officials did not say which employees were the focus of the investigation or whether the team’s highest-ranking officials were aware of the hacking or authorized it. The investigation is being led by the F.B.I.’s Houston field office and has progressed to the point that subpoenas have been served on the Cardinals and Major League Baseball for electronic correspondence.

The story goes on to state that the “hack” was fairly low-tech, as these things go; it appears that someone with access to the password histories used by Luhnow (and those who followed him to St. Louis) were simply used to gain access to the Astros systems. Unfortunately for the “hackers”, they used a computer at a home that was easily tied to the Cardinals — perhaps a home rented out for Spring Training — and the trail was simply followed from there. This does not exactly seem like the work of criminal masterminds.

It will be interesting to see what MLB does when the FBI finishes their investigation. The story mentions that those accused of participating have not yet been punished by the team, but that seems very likely to change; there are going to be some firings over this, and it will be interesting to see how high up the ladder this goes. And I would imagine MLB will likely look into punishing the organization beyond just the individuals involved.

A year ago, the Astros were seen as an embarrassment for their on-field play and for letting their secure resources get released into the public. Today, their team is in first place and it seems like they were legitimately victims of theft from another organization. Now, it is the Cardinals who might end up as the embarrassed organization.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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7 years ago

They committed a Cardinal sin.