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New York Times reports Cardinals employees hacked Astros computer database

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Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The New York Times reported this morning that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Department of Justice are launching a probe into a potential case of baseball-related industrial espionage: employees of the St. Louis Cardinals allegedly hacked the computerized player scouting database of the Houston Astros.

According to the Times report by Michael S. Schmidt,

Investigators have uncovered evidence that Cardinals officials broke into a network of the Houston Astros that housed special databases the team had built, according to law enforcement officials. Internal discussions about trades, proprietary statistics and scouting reports were compromised, the officials said.

The officials did not say which employees were the focus of the investigation or whether the team’s highest-ranking officials were aware of the hacking or authorized it. The investigation is being led by the F.B.I.’s Houston field office and has progressed to the point that subpoenas have been served on the Cardinals and Major League Baseball for electronic correspondence.

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.

The investigation is apparently related to the June 2014 leak of Astros internal trade discussion memos to the press and public via Deadspin. FBI investigators probing that incident reportedly discovered evidence that the intrusion into the Astros computer system originated at a home lived in by Cardinals employees.

The Times reports that the hacking "did not appear to be sophisticated" and involved the use of " a master list of passwords" known to the Cardinals that were previously used by Luhnow and other former Cardinals employees now working for Houston. Using this list, the Cardinals hackers were able to access Houston's "Ground Control" player information database, including statistics, scouting reports, and analysis by Astros personnel.

It is unclear at this time how the Cardinals used this information.