Did the St. Louis Cardinals use their familiarity with former executive Jeff Luhnow to break into the data systems Luhnow uses at his new job with the Houston Astros? That's one of the questions federal authorities confirm they're investigating.
There's no word on any potential charges in the case, or on who within the Cardinals' organization might have been involved. The breach occurred last year and centered on proprietary information about players and team operations.
A source in federal law enforcement has confirmed the federal investigation to NPR's Carrie Johnson; the Cardinals say the team is cooperating with the inquiry.
Luhnow became the Astros' general manager in late 2011; prior to that, he was a vice president in the Cardinals' organization, focusing on evaluating players. A report today by The New York Times says investigators suspect the Cardinals broke into the Astros' network of special databases where the team kept "discussions about trades, proprietary statistics and scouting reports."
The information compiled by Luhnow could be particularly valuable — he's a former business consultant whose analytical approach was credited with modernizing how the Cardinals evaluated talent. Despite being a divisive figure, he rose to lead the team's scouting department.
According to a 2014 Bloomberg Business profile of Luhnow, "During the seven years he ran amateur scouting, no team had more draft picks make it to the big leagues than the Cardinals."
According to The Times, the investigation "has progressed to the point that subpoenas have been served on the Cardinals and Major League Baseball for electronic correspondence."
The newspaper says federal investigators were brought in after a trove of confidential Astros documents was posted online last year — and that suspicions eventually revolved around "a master list of passwords used by Mr. Luhnow" and others who had left St. Louis to join the Astros. That brought up the possibility that Cardinals officials might have used the passwords to gain access to the Astros' system.
The FBI's Houston office is leading the investigation into whether the Cardinals accessed the Astros' private files. Carrie passes along a statement from FBI special agent and Houston office spokeswoman Shauna Dunlap:
"The FBI aggressively investigates all potential threats to public and private sector systems. Once our investigations are complete, we pursue all appropriate avenues to hold accountable those who pose a threat in cyberspace."
The St. Louis Cardinals have released a statement:
"The St. Louis Cardinals are aware of the investigation into the security breach of the Houston Astros' database. 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."
Major League Baseball issued its own reaction, saying that it has "fully cooperated with the federal investigation into the illegal breach of the Astros' baseball operations database."
When the federal inquiry ends, MLB says, "we will evaluate the next steps and will make decisions promptly."