MLB Cardinals Hack Into Astros Database, Criminal Or Just Geek Gamesmanship?

Major League Baseball has worked hard to improve its image and move on from the so-called steroids era, a period in baseball where many records were broken by players who were later found to have been doping up and using human growth hormones. But the latest scandal takes an unexpected and perhaps unprecedented twist into the field of cyber espionage.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Justice Department are currently investigating the St. Louis Cardinals for allegedly hacking internal networks belonging to the Houston Astros. Law enforcement officials are said to have uncovered evidence that certain Cardinals employees infiltrated a network of the Astros that contained special databases the team built. Those databases reportedly stored information about trade talks, proprietary statistics assembled by the Astros, and scouting reports, all of which would be valuable information to a competing team.

It's not yet known what potential punishment MLB might consider for the Cardinals if they're guilty of the allegations.

St. Louis Cardinals

"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," MLB said in a statement. "Once the investigative process has been completed by federal law enforcement officials, we will evaluate the next steps and will make decisions promptly."

While the investigation is ongoing, law enforcement officials surmise that angry front-office employees for the Cardinals might have sought revenge on Jeff Luhnow, a former high profile scout for the team who left in 2011 to become the General Manager of the Astros.

Whatever the reason, this is the first known incident of a professional sports team hacking the database of another team. Cyber espionage isn't new by means, but it usually involves foreign threats hacking into government systems looking for trade secrets or personally identifiable information that can be sold on the underground market.

The St. Louis Cardinals have been one of the more successful baseball teams throughout the years. It's won 11 World Series championships, second only to the New York Yankees, its most recent titles coming in 2011 and 2006. Just prior to Jeff Luhnow leaving the Cardinals for the Astros, the two teams were division rivals in the National League.