The Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2015 — #19: The Cardinals hack the Astros database

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We’re a few short days away from 2016 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2015. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

In June two of my favorite forms of entertainment — baseball and espionage thrillers — converged as it was revealed that employees of the St. Louis Cardinals hacked into the scouting and analytics database of the Houston Astros.

The fact that someone hacked into the Astros’ “Ground Control” database, which is the club’s internal communication and evaluation system, had been known since 2014. No one suspected that the hackers were employed by another major league team until it was reported that the FBI was investigating, however. That’s when it was revealed that the focus of the investigation was the Cardinals organization.

The alleged impetus for the hack was both (a) concern that former Cards executive Jeff Luhnow took proprietary information with him when he left for Houston to become the Astros’ GM; and (b) lingering resentment over Lunhow’s tenure with the Cardinals, where he was reported to have been a polarizing figure. It was not a sophisticated hack, apparently, and there has been no indication that the Cards’ top brass directed it or were aware of it. So far the top head to roll has been Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa who was fired after an “imposed leave of absence” and who was reported to have admitted to breaking into the system.

It’s been over six months since the news broke, but the investigation is still ongoing. Law enforcement has not said anything, as they are likely considering whether to charge anyone with a crime (and make no mistake: it is a crime to hack into a baseball team’s database). Major League Baseball has kept mum about it as well. For now, we wait.

And when the waiting is over, what then? Perhaps an arrest or an indictment from the feds. Perhaps some penalties leveled upon the Cardinals by major league baseball, possibly in the form of financial or draft pick compensation. Perhaps more firings.

In the meantime: a lot of seminars about password and network security in major league front offices.