ST. LOUIS - Federal law enforcement authorities are investigating whether the St. Louis Cardinals illegally hacked into a computer database of the Houston Astros to obtain information on players, a person familiar with the situation said Tuesday in an unusual case involving two former major league division rivals.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because MLB, law enforcement officials and the two teams were not disclosing details of the investigation. The New York Times first reported that the FBI and Justice Department were investigating whether Cardinals front-office officials were behind the effort to steal information from the Astros' database, called Ground Control.
"Major League Baseball has been aware of and has fully cooperated with the federal investigation into the illegal breach of the Houston 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."
Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said subpoenas have been issued, though he did not provide details.
"There are legal problems associated with federal law enforcement officials seeking cooperation from private individuals," Manfred said.
"If the federal government wants information from us they would subpoena information and that's what they've done."
Messages seeking comment from FBI offices in Washington, Houston and St. Louis were not returned. The U.S. attorney in St. Louis, Richard Callahan, said he was unaware of the investigation.
The Cardinals are among baseball's most successful franchises on and off the field. Only the New York Yankees have won more World Series titles than the 11 won by St. Louis.
The Astros and Cardinals were rivals in the NL Central until Houston moved to the American League in 2013. The Astros hired former Cardinals scouting and player development executive Jeff Luhnow as general manager in December 2011, and he has helped turn the team from a laughingstock into a contender.
The Astros finished 70-92 and fourth in the AL West a year ago, ending a woeful streak of three straight 100-loss seasons. They are currently in first place in the AL West.
It wasn't immediately clear how many Cardinals employees were under investigation.
"Then there's the question of who did it?" Manfred told reporters in Boston. "Who knew about it? Is the organization responsible? Is the individual responsible? There's a whole set of issues that are needed to be sorted through."
He said he couldn't recall a similar case in baseball's long history.
"Until we know, this is different than when we might investigate a drug case [or] we have access to all the facts in a real-time situation," he said. "That's just not the case here. We don't exactly know what the facts are."
"This is a federal investigation not a baseball investigation," he said. "Obviously any allegation like this, no matter how serious it turns out to be, is of great concern to us."
The Cardinals and Astros said they were cooperating with the investigation but declined further comment.