Get your “gate”-suffixed scandal submissions in now. Baseball has a football-style cheating scandal.
The New York Times reports the St. Louis Cardinals have hacked into a player-personnel database to get secrets from the Houston Astros, one of the better teams in the American League this year.
The Cardinals stole secret player evaluations and statistics, the Times says, in what is believed to be the first case of corporate espionage via computers in professional sports.
Law enforcement officials believe the hacking was executed by vengeful front-office employees for the Cardinals hoping to wreak havoc on the work of Jeff Luhnow, the Astros’ general manager who had been a successful and polarizing executive with the Cardinals until 2011.
From 1994 to 2012, the Astros and the Cardinals were division rivals, in the National League. For a part of that time, Mr. Luhnow was a Cardinals executive, primarily handling scouting and player development. One of many innovative thinkers drawn to the sport by the “Moneyball” phenomenon, he was credited with building baseball’s best minor league system, as well as drafting several players who would become linchpins of the Cardinals’ 2011 World Series-winning team.
The Astros hired Mr. Luhnow as general manager in December 2011, and he quickly began applying his unconventional approach to running a baseball team. In an exploration of the team’s radical transformation, Bloomberg Business called it “a project unlike anything baseball has seen before.”
Under Mr. Luhnow, the Astros have accomplished a striking turnaround; they are in first place in the American League West division. But in 2013, before their revival at the major league level, their internal deliberations about statistics and players were compromised, law enforcement officials said.
The data actually found its way online a year ago, when Deadspin used it to reveal the internal trade discussions of the Astros.
The hackers may not have been that bright to begin with. The FBI reportedly quickly figured out that the computer used to hack into the competition was in a home in which a Cardinals employee lived.