There are few things more American than baseball. As the ‘boys of summer’ make their way toward the All-Star Break, The New York Times has reported some startling claims involving America’s game and one of its most storied franchises.
It was reported today that the Houston Astros’ database was allegedly breached with the possible culprit being none other than the St. Louis Cardinals—currently holding the best record in baseball at 42-21. The Times claims, if reports are true, this would be the first case of corporate espionage involving professional sports teams.
The FBI as well as the Justice Department are already conducting an investigation that is allegedly bearing fruit. Per the Times report, evidence exists proving the Astros’ database was breached, giving the Cardinals full access to information that includes scouting reports, proprietary information, internal conversations as well as statistics.
The investigation, which according to ESPN legal analyst Lester Munson is nearly complete, began last June when the Astros claimed to fall victim to an attack. At that point, authorities and Major League Baseball began the hunt for the guilty party.
One may ask what the connection between these two franchises is. The Cardinals, members of the National League Central Division, and the Astros, of the American League Central Division, play less than a handful of games against each other every season.
Apparently, the breach can be traced back to current Astros General Manager Jeff Lunhow who before his current post, worked in the St. Louis scouting department from 2003-2011. The hackers allegedly compiled a list of passwords Lunhow used while with the Cardinals and were able to gain access to Houston’s database.
Lunhow is an unconventional business executive, as he has embraced the “Moneyball” strategy to build a team around advanced statistics—divergent from traditional methods. His wealth of collected data on the MLB (News - Alert) could prove invaluable to another franchise.
"I don't know if anybody can say for sure that any system is 100 percent secure, but we're working on it," Luhnow said last year when the team initially addressed the security breach. "We've done a security review and we're going to continue to do more. Obviously information is important in our industry as it is in any industry, and we want to do everything we can to protect the information."
From “deflate-gate” to performance enhancing drugs, no sport is void of scandal and this occurrence should serve as warning to all sports franchises for two reasons. Firstly, in sports many are of the mindset that if you are not cheating, you are doing something wrong. So, all teams and players in their own way push the envelope. Secondly, ALL executives regardless of industry must keep security front of mind.
We will know more when the report becomes public, but it is clear the punishment won’t be a 90+ mph fastball thrown a bit inside.