The Cardinals are currently under federal investigation for allegedly gaining illegal access into the Astros’ internal computer network, and Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports the latest wrinkle in the scandal. In addition to the previously known security breaches in 2014 and 2013, Drellich now has learned that the Cardinals accessed the Astros’ network as early as 2012, bringing light to a third and previously unreported breach.
Previous reports have indicated that the Cardinals employees in question gained access to Houston’s Ground Control system by utilizing a master list of passwords from when Jeff Luhnow and other execs were still with St. Louis, fueling speculation that Luhnow had neglected to update old passwords. The Houston GM told Ben Reiter of SI.com that any such speculation was “absolutely false,” continuing to add:
“I absolutely know about password hygiene and best practices. I’m certainly aware of how important passwords are, as well as of the importance of keeping them updated. A lot of my job in baseball, as it was in high tech, is to make sure that intellectual property is protected. I take that seriously and hold myself and those who work for me to a very high standard.”
In speaking to Reiter, Luhnow also addressed the supposed concern from Cardinals employees that he may have taken some proprietary information from St. Louis to Houston, denying that any such action took place and adding that he never received any sort of inquiry from the Cardinals on the matter. Luhnow says that his departure from the Cardinals was amicable, adding that many of his former colleagues were invited to and in attendance for his 2012 wedding.
Drellich has previously reported that the list of suspected Cardinals employees has been narrowed to four or five, and it seems at this point that the highest-ranking members of the Cardinals’ front office weren’t involved. Attorney Jim Martin, whose firm was retained by the Cardinals in February to perform an organizational review upon learning of the investigation, expressed confidence to the Associated Press that GM John Mozeliak and chairman/CEO Bill DeWitt, Jr. had no knowledge of the events. “With what we have done so far, I am 100 percent confident that this does not touch upper management,” said Martin.
Via Robert Patrick of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, DeWitt himself addressed the media yesterday and said that he was “shocked” and “in disbelief” when he learned of the allegations. “There was zero knowledge until the FBI launched their investigation and we became aware of it,” said DeWitt.
The Chronicle reported earlier in the week that the investigation was in its latter stages, and Drellich explained in a followup piece last night that it would be the commissioner’s office — not a civil suit — that would determine the punishment for the Cardinals and award potential damages to the Astros. As Drellich explains, Major League clubs cannot file civil suits against one another, despite the fact that a former Department of Justice attorney who specialized intellectual property and commercial litigation told him the Astros “could have a case for theft of trade secrets.” The Cardinals cannot be fined more than $2MM as an organization, and DeWitt and other employees cannot be fined more than $500K. However, the commissioner’s office can punish the Cardinals by way of both the Rule 4 Draft (the yearly amateur draft in June) and the Rule 5 Draft, in addition to “other unspecified actions as the commissioner sees fit.”