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FBI Probes How And Why Houston Astros Database Was Breached


This is MORNING EDITION. Good morning, I'm David Greene.


And I'm Steve Inskeep. Let's wrestle, now, with just what, if anything, the St. Louis Cardinals were doing. The Cardinals are widely considered a model franchise. They win, and they do it the right way. That, at least, was their reputation. Now that reputation is being called into question. As first reported by The New York Times, the FBI is looking into whether the Cardinals hacked the Houston Astros' computer system to steal information about players. The reporters covering this story now include Derrick Goold. He's the beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch covering the Cardinals. He's traveling with the team in Minneapolis. Welcome to the program.

DERRICK GOOLD: Thanks for having me.

INSKEEP: First, let's try to figure out why these two teams - they're not even in the same league. They don't play that much, so they're not the most obvious rivals. Why the Cardinals and the Astros?

GOOLD: Well, a lot of it has to do with some overlapping of front office personnel. The current general manager for the Houston Astros, Jeff Luhnow, got his start in baseball with the Cardinals. He was hired in 2003. This was, you'll recall, the era of money ball, and the cardinals wanted to get up to speed in analytics and data analysis. And Luhnow was influential and very important and instrumental in putting that together for the team.

INSKEEP: OK, so he spent a lot of time with the Cardinals and then moved on to the Astros. And was somebody effectively chasing him, then, when he went to the Astros?

GOOLD: Well, he took some employees with him. You know, and then, also, took, obviously, some of the things he learned with the Cardinals to the Astros, which is to be expected. You know, and then they set about setting up a database system, which they called Ground Control - the system that they set up to analyze and help them evaluate and collect information and data and collate that into a way to view players, either for drafting or for acquisition via trades. The Cardinals also had a similar database setup with - that Luhnow was influential in kind of structuring the design for and the algorithms for. So, yeah, I mean, there was some frustration. There also was a lot of credit heaped on Jeff Luhnow when he was with Astros for the success the Cardinals had, even after he departed. This was a guy who oversaw the drafts, brought in some talent for the Cardinals. And, you know, there was some sense that, you know, there with Houston, he was getting a lot of credit for things that other people with the Cardinals did.

INSKEEP: Would it have been hard for someone with the Cardinals' organization to hack the Astros' computers?

GOOLD: The information about the Ground Control was available publicly. And then, as The New York Times reported and investigators alleged, there was some information left behind by the folks who left the Cardinals for the Astros that allowed for passwords to be used - past passwords that either hadn't been updated or hadn't changed, and those could be used. So how easy it was only depended on the security protocol. The Cardinals no longer discuss even the name of their current database. Part - one of the reasons would be because it's proprietary, and they want to add that extra layer of security.

INSKEEP: What information, exactly, was stolen, if that is the proper word for it, and what difference would it have made?

GOOLD: In that information was included just some conversations about trades, some views of players. It was mostly emails, but access to that database would also allow you access to some of their proprietary views - scouting reports, medical information.

INSKEEP: So, as you've been traveling with the team on the last day or so since this has been reported, what has been attitude of people on the Cardinals?

GOOLD: I think most of the team was shocked by it. Some folks within the organization describe being just absolutely blindsided. And, you know, to the best of their knowledge, the players aren't involved. And they're sort of waiting for more information from the front office, which is involved.

INSKEEP: Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, thanks very much.

GOOLD: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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