VOL. 130 | NO. 119 | Friday, June 19, 2015
The Press Box
Taking Their Hacks? FBI Investigates Cardinals in Breach of Astros’ Database
By Don Wade
One funny man posted a picture of former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Luther Hackman, deeming him a “person of interest.”
Just about everyone took a swing at the Cardinals’ tiresome Best Fans in Baseball moniker by pointing out that “you can’t spell BFIB without FBI.”
When news broke via a New York Times story that the FBI was investigating the Cardinals in a breach of the Houston Astros’ internal database, it was tantamount to throwing a hanging curveball to a Twitter world with bats at the ready.
But look at it this way, Cardinals fans: Would you rather have 11 world championships and 1 hacking scandal or two world championships (the last in 1908) and 0 hacking scandals?
Isn’t it always better to be guilty of smugness than Cubness?
Of course, the Cardinals might be guilty of much more than smugness, of sustained winning, of looking like a close relative of the New England Patriots.
That whole where-there’s-smoke-there’s-fire thing? Well, smoke is visible over Busch Stadium and the Gateway Arch. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said a source confirmed that federal agents traced one breach to a computer at a Jupiter, Fla., residence used by multiple Cardinals officials and Jupiter – drum roll – is the team’s spring training site.
Reportedly, the Astros suffered security breaches in 2013 and 2014. Then some Astros internal memos made it onto a hacker site and from there onto Deadspin.com, which has reported that it received a tip last summer about leaked information (including trade talks) from the Astros’ database – dubbed “Ground Control.”
Major Tom, we have a problem.
The connection from St. Louis to Houston is current Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, a Cardinals front office executive from 2003 until joining the Astros in 2011. Early speculation was that Luhnow carried old passwords with him to Houston and that allowed for hacking by one or more Cardinals employees with knowledge of the passwords.
Luhnow finally told SI.com that he had changed his passwords and also shot down the popular theory that he had left rocky relationships behind in St. Louis, noting that Cardinals GM John Mozeliak, among others from the front office, had attended his wedding.
Yet, a column in the Post-Dispatch this week painted a picture with more eye-rolling than happy faces. Wrote columnist Joe Strauss: “Success, a separate budget and what some in the organization saw as Luhnow’s unquenchable knack for self-promotion gave rise to resentment. Critics derided him as ‘Harry Potter.’”
Ironically enough, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred was on a scheduled visit to Fenway Park in Boston after news of the FBI probe broke. Manfred told media he was uncomfortable speculating about what had occurred, but did say if someone with the Cardinals was found to be involved it raised many questions.
“There’s the question of who did it, who knew about it, is the organization responsible, is the individual responsible?” Manfred said.
Here’s another question: Will the term “jailbird” take on new meaning?
There is also no mistaking that Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr., as head of the search committee that selected Manfred to succeed Bud Selig as commissioner, is in a power seat similar to that of Patriots owner Robert Kraft. The latter, many people believe, has said “jump” right before NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has asked, “How high?”
So this is a mess, the kind that birds on a bat might leave behind.
But the jokes aren’t going to be very funny if the FBI traces involvement to the Cardinals that goes beyond some front office flunkies out to make a little mischief or poke at Luhnow.
If the allegations of a St. Louis-led breach are true, it will be difficult for people in uniform to hide from what others representing The Cardinal Way have done.
Poor Mike Matheny just has a cap, not a hoodie.
Don Wade’s column appears weekly in The Daily News and The Memphis News. Listen to Wade on “Middays with Greg & Eli” every Tuesday at noon on Sports 56 AM and 87.7 FM.