Major League Baseball, despite its renowned unwillingness to break with tradition and eschew nostalgia, is becoming quite a high-tech pastime.
The league’s most successful franchises have big teams devoted to analytics, which is used for selecting players, harnessing their talents and scouting the opposition's strengths and weaknesses.
Since the “Moneyball” revolution, data collection and interpretation has become an indispensable weapon in the arsenal of most teams looking for an edge. However, hacking into another team’s databases to steal information on their players? Well, that’s a new one.
The New York Times reports the storied St. Louis Cardinals franchise is facing an FBI probe after discovering evidence front office officials may have hacked into the Houston Astros’ systems in order to obtain detailed reports on playing personnel.
According to the Feds, those databases contained internal trade discussions, in-house stats and scouting reports; all of which was compromised by the intrusion.
The NYT says the FBI’s Houston field office is leading the probe and has already issued subpoenas to the Cardinals and Major League Baseball requesting electronic information.
A spokesperson for the Cardinals, the 11-times World Series Champions and holder of the best record in baseball so far in 2015, said: “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.”
Why would the Cardinals be interested in the Atros? Well, the two teams were division rivals between 1994 and 2012, until the rivalry was curtailed when the Astros franchise shifted to the American League in 2013.
Investigators believe the case may revolve around former Cards executive Jeff Luhnow who left the St Louis in 2011 to join the Atros as General Manager.
Luhnow set about transforming the team's previously desperate fortunes and appears to have been successful, with Houston enjoying a winning season so far in 2015, thanks to a host of young players starting to fulfill their potential.
Was St. Louis eavesdropping on its former employee?
As the New York Times points out, if the probe yields hard evidence, it would be the first known case of espionage in which one pro sports team has hacked the network of a rival.