On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that FBI and Justice Department prosecutors are investigating the St. Louis Cardinals over their alleged hacking of an internal database belonging to the Houston Astros. The Cardinals did so, law enforcement officials believe, to disrupt the work Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow, who was a Cardinals executive from 2003 until he left for Houston in 2011.
According to the Times, the Cardinals were able to access the Astros’ database, named Ground Control, by taking a master list of passwords used by Luhnow while he was in St. Louis and using them to access the Astros’ network.
But in an interview published Thursday by Sports Illustrated, Luhnow denied that he failed to change his old passwords.
“That’s absolutely false,” Luhnow told SI’s Ben Reiter. “I absolutely know about password hygiene and best practices. I’m certainly aware of how important passwords are, as well as of the importance of keeping them updated. A lot of my job in baseball, as it was in high tech, is to make sure that intellectual property is protected. I take that seriously and hold myself and those who work for me to a very high standard.”
Investigators also believe the St. Louis officials involved in the hack were concerned that Luhnow had taken proprietary baseball information belonging to the Cardinals with him when he left for Houston. Luhnow also denied this to Sports Illustrated.
“I’m very aware of intellectual property and the agreements I signed,” Luhnow told Reiter. “I didn’t take anything, any proprietary information. Nor have we ever received any inquiries from anybody that even suggested that we had.”
Further, Luhnow added, the idea that one team’s outdated intellectual property would have remained helpful to a rival even in the short term is illogical. “If you were to take a snapshot of the database of one team, within a month it would not be useful anymore, because things change so quickly,” he said. “Not to mention that the types of analysis you would do back in 2011, versus 2012 or ’13 , is evolving so quickly because of new tools like PitchFX and StatCast. I wouldn’t trust another team’s analysis even if I had it.”
Luhnow told SI that he left the Cardinals on good terms.
“I actually got along very well with everybody with the Cardinals,” he said. “I was friendly with the people I left behind there. A lot of them came to my wedding, when I got married in January 2012. The owner, the general manager, the assistant general manager, other executives, scouts were at my wedding. This wasn’t a bad breakup. It was a happy promotion of a person to a higher position in another organization.”