Make no mistake about it. This will go down as the biggest scandal to hit professional sports since the Black Sox Scandal and the throwing of the 1919 World Series.
Major League Baseball is not going to summon a Ted Wells-like figure to come out with a blue-ribbon fact finding report and issue suspensions and sanctions against the St. Louis Cardinals and members of their front office that might be found to have culpability in this situation.
People are going to go to prison.
When the Federal Bureau of Investigation gets involved, and then makes it public, they are advertising the fact that a Grand Jury will soon be convening and that indictments will be handed down. Once the indictments are handed down, the Department of Justice will begin to prosecute those individuals that they believe are guilty of committing these crimes. You will then see the accused scurry to make deals, turn on each other and fight for their freedom.
There are two types of defendants in Federal actions. Those that cooperate with the feds and those that wish that they cooperated with the feds. The feds give out long prison sentences like candy on Halloween.
According to The New York Times, 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.
Believing that the Astros’ network had been compromised by a rogue hacker, Major League Baseball notified the F.B.I., and the authorities in Houston opened an investigation. Agents soon found that the Astros’ network had been entered from a computer at a home that some Cardinals employees had lived in. The agents then turned their attention to the team’s front office.
“The F.B.I. aggressively investigates all potential threats to public- and private-sector systems,” an F.B.I. spokeswoman said to the Times. “Once our investigations are complete, we pursue all appropriate avenues to hold accountable those who pose a threat in cyberspace.”
This is bigger than Deflategate and this is bigger than Bullygate. Ted Wells cannot fix this and he cannot issue a 200-page report to make a recommendation to anyone that will sweep this under the rug. He cannot get with Rob Manfred and make this go away. Once the Department of Justice and the Federal Alphabets get involved and sink their teeth into something, they are like rabid dogs. They do not let go until all of the life is gone and they get what they need to satiate their appetite and see that justice has been done.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch will play the greater role of Ted Wells and she will be armed with a team full of federal prosecutors who will come equipped with subpoenas; they will get to the bottom of this. When they do, people will end up in prison, not with multiple-game suspensions.
This was bound to happen sooner or later. Front office personnel move from team to team and passwords do not get changed as often as they need to be, and teams apparently do not do a good enough job protecting their intellectual property. It is not like the Cardinals used sophisticated equipment. Former employees had passwords and used them surreptitiously and without the consent of their former employer. The Astros trusted that they would have honor and they simply did not.
Is there no honor in baseball any more? Tom Hanks said that there was no crying, but is there also no honor?
Major League Baseball “has been aware of and has fully cooperated with the federal investigation into the illegal breach of the Astros’ baseball operations database,” a spokesman for Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a written statement.
According to the Times, the Cardinals personnel under investigation have not been put on leave, suspended or fired. The commissioner’s office will probably wait until the conclusion of the government’s investigation to determine whether to take disciplinary action against the employees or the team.
If they were smart, they would use this time to lawyer up, get their affairs in order and prepare for a short prison term. There is no way that they do not see the inside of the Bureau of Prisons. They also might want to get their resume together, as they will never work in baseball again, unless it is mowing the grass or getting the field ready for play.
The case is a rare mark of ignominy for the Cardinals, one of the sport’s most revered and popular organizations. The team has the best record in the Majors this season (43-21), regularly commands outsize television ratings and has reached the National League Championship Series nine times since 2000. The Cardinals, who last won the World Series in 2011, have 11 titles overall, second only to the Yankees.
From 1994 to 2012, the Astros and the Cardinals were division rivals in the N.L. Central. For a part of that time, Luhnow was a Cardinals executive, primarily handling scouting and player development. One of many innovative thinkers drawn to the sport by the statistics-based “Moneyball” phenomenon, he was credited with building baseball’s best minor league system, and with drafting several players who would become linchpins of that 2011 Cardinals team.
The Astros then hired Mr. Luhnow as general manager in December 2011, just before they morphed into the American League, and he quickly began applying his unconventional approach to running a baseball team. In an exploration of the team’s radical transformation, Bloomberg Business dubbed it “a project unlike anything baseball has seen before.”
Under Luhnow’s direction, 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, the law enforcement officials said.
The intrusion did not appear to be sophisticated, the law enforcement officials said. When Mr. Luhnow was with the Cardinals, the team built a computer network, called Redbird, to house all of its baseball operations information — including scouting reports and player information. After he left to join the Astros, and took some front-office personnel with him from the Cardinals, Houston created a similar program known as Ground Control.
It contained the Astros’ “collective baseball knowledge,” according to a Bloomberg article published last year that was referenced by the Times. The program took a series of variables and weighted them “according to the values determined by the team’s statisticians, physicist, doctors, scouts and coaches,” the article said.
Investigators believe that Cardinals personnel, concerned that Luhnow had taken their idea and proprietary baseball information to the Astros, examined a master list of passwords used by Luhnow and the other officials when they worked for the Cardinals. The Cardinals employees are believed to have used those passwords to gain access to the Astros’ network, law enforcement officials said.
That tactic is often used by cybercriminals, who sell passwords from one breach on the underground market, where others buy them and test them on other websites, including banking and brokerage services. The breach on the Astros would be one of the first known instances of a corporate competitor using the tactic against a rival. It is also, security experts say, just one more reason people are advised not to use the same passwords across different sites and services.
Last year, some of the information from the Astros’ computers was posted anonymously online, according to an article posted on Deadspin. Among the details that were exposed were trade discussions that the Astros had with other teams. Luhnow was asked after the story broke whether the breach would affect how he dealt with other teams.
“Today I used a pencil and paper in all my conversations,” he said.
This story isn’t going to go away, and it’s going to end with real-world punishments. Just what those are remains to be seen.
If you are under investigation for any crime, or are the target of any federal or state probe, call the Law Offices of Meltzer & Bell for a free, no-obligation consultation. We might be able to resolve your matter, or have the charges reduced before they get to the filing stages. Rely on the experience of Lawrence M. Meltzer, Esq. and Steven Bell, Esq. to represent you diligently and zealously in any state or federal court in Florida.
This blog was updated March 6th, 2019.