This is big.
Earlier this afternoon, Michael S. Schmidt of the New York Times broke a story about how the St. Louis Cardinals are being investigated by the FBI for allegedly hacking the Houston Astros and stealing “closely guarded information about player personnel.”
According to Schmidt’s report, an FBI investigation was prompted last summer when some private information was posted online. Here’s what Schmidt said occurred:
“Believing that the Astros’ network had been compromised by a rogue hacker, Major League Baseball notified the F.B.I., and the authorities in Houston opened an investigation. Agents soon found that the Astros’ network had been entered from a computer at a home that some Cardinals officials had lived in. The agents then turned their attention to the team’s front office.”
Schmidt also described how the attack could have been out of spite. Luhnow, who was a Cardinals executive before becoming the Astros GM in 2011, developed a giant database of Astros information called “Ground Control.” It was this database that might have prompted Cardinals officials to feel he stole their own idea of a team-wide database, as they have one as well.
“Investigators believe Cardinals officials, concerned that Mr. Luhnow had taken their idea and proprietary baseball information to the Astros, examined a master list of passwords used by Mr. Luhnow and the other officials who had joined the Astros when they worked for the Cardinals. The Cardinals officials are believed to have used those passwords to gain access to the Astros’ network, law enforcement officials said.”
And as Schmidt also described, the intrusion “did not appear to be sophisticated.” So at least we can find solace in the fact that whatever hacker did this essentially fired from the hip and gained access into the Astros most prized possession (other than George Springer).
The reason this investigation could be so monumental is that, to my knowledge, there has never been a case of hacking between two professional sports organizations. Ever. The closest comparison that most can come up with is the New England Patriots famed “SpyGate,” but this is on another level compared to that.
It should also be noted that commissioner Rob Manfred, in his inaugural year, surely has a tough issue in front of him. Should the investigation yield any greater revelation, or even confirm what they are alleging happened already, he will be tasked with the tough challenge of punishing the perpetrators. MLB issued this response:
MLB statement regarding investigation into last year’s security breach involving Astros: pic.twitter.com/eGgrfLYDon
— MLB (@MLB) June 16, 2015
We here at Baseball Essential, and the baseball world in general, will surely be keeping a close eye on this story as it continues to play out in the near future.