It looks like three strikes and you’re out for the St. Louis Cardinals. The franchise admitted that a third, earlier hack of Houston Astros proprietary information in 2012 preceded the 2013 and 2014 hacks already known to the public.
As a result of the hacks, the Cardinals could be out in all sorts of ways, according to the Houston Chronicle: the MLB commissioner could ban them from meetings; anyone associated with the team, including the owner, could be suspended from baseball; the team could be hit with a fine of up to $2 million, or the Cardinals could be excluded from the amateur draft.
Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr., joined by general manager John Mozeliakas, met with reporters, finally admitting that his organization had hacked into the Astros’ system but lamely called the action, “roguish behavior.” He did acknowledge, without naming names, “we’ve all been tainted,” adding, “Those responsible will be held accountable and we will continue what we feel is a great franchise. We’re committed to getting this resolved, we hope sooner rather than later. We’re a little bit at the government’s pace. We’re not in a position of pushing them, as you might imagine.”
The 2012 hack could well have been catalyzed by the departure of the former head of scouting for the Cardinals, Jeff Luhnow, in December 2011. Much scuttlebutt has centered on those in the Cardinals organization wanting to embarrass Luhnow because they resented his methods and subsequent success. After leaving the Cardinals, Luhnow became the Astros general manager.
A source with inside information on the Cardinals’ internal investigation said that the Astros were hacked at least three times and possibly more; the Chronicle had reported the list of suspects had been narrowed to five people. The FBI simultaneously conducts its own investigation, commenced after the 2014 intrusion. That breach led to the publication of the Astros’ private information, including 10 months of trade talks, on Anonbin, later published at Deadspin.
Astros general counsel Giles Kibbe refused to malign the Cardinals, telling the Chronicle, “Jim (Crane), Jeff (Luhnow) and our entire organization have a tremendous amount of respect for Mr. DeWitt and the Cardinals organization. We have no doubt that they will handle this appropriately.”
Although the stealing of trade secrets could theoretically prompt a civil suit, Major League Baseball’s rules do not allow one team to sue another. The sport traditionally resolves its problems in-house, meaning the decision for punishment will likely rest with new commissioner Rob Manfred.