The chairman of the St. Louis Cardinals expressed disbelief and embarrassment about a hacking scandal that has invited scrutiny onto the baseball club.
But while the Cardinals’ managing partner says the controversy will dent his team’s image in the short term, he doesn’t believe that the actions of “roguish” individuals would permanently scar the club.
Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. spoke publicly to local television, radio and print reporters for the first time since the fracas became public. The New York Times reported earlier this week that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was looking into whether team personnel hacked into the Houston Astros’ computer system.
DeWitt emphasized that he had “no knowledge either before the alleged time frame that someone was interested in going into another club’s website or when it allegedly occurred.” He also said he had no idea what would compel one of his employees to engage in what he called “illegal activity.”
“It kind of shocked me that someone would consider doing that – and I still don’t know the reason for it,” DeWitt said. “I can’t come up with a reason for it. … We’re not looking to emulate other teams, we’re looking to be a leading team. We’re looking to develop our own information. We’re looking to be the best at what we can be and hopefully continue to have winning teams.”
There had been speculation that the rationale for the hacking was to get back at Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow, who used to work for the Cardinals. But both DeWitt and Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said Luhnow left the organization on good terms – and still had a good relationship with many Cardinals personnel. (Luhnow expressed similar sentiments to Sports Illustrated this week.)
“I felt like we had a very solid relationship – a very positive working relationship,” Mozeliak said. “When he did have the opportunity to go to Houston, I can tell you both Bill and I were advocates for him to get that opportunity and gave glowing reports.”
During the gathering with reporters, DeWitt and Mozeliak said they were cooperating with federal investigators since the beginning of the year – and had launched an internal inquiry. Asked if they knew who was behind the hacking, Mozeliak replied: “Anything that we’re dealing with from an investigation standpoint has to remain privileged and confidential.”
“We are not in a position to discuss what we may or may not know from that publicly,” Mozeliak said.
When asked if the hacking revelations had harmed his ball club’s image, DeWitt said that what transpired “is not behavior anybody’s proud of.”
“Generally, it’s not going to be positive news,” DeWitt said. “Until we get it all resolved and move on, it’s going to have a lingering effect. As I said to the employees, we’ve all been tainted by it to a degree. But when you have situations that cast a negative light on certain people in the organization or the organization itself, it’s our job to fix it and move on and do better and make sure that things like this don’t happen again.”
DeWitt also stressed that the team had hundreds of employees, and that the actions of an employee or employees shouldn’t be an indictment of the entire organization. But he went on to say that “you can be sure that those who are involved with this will pay a heavy price.”
“We fell like we’ve got a very good corporate culture here,” DeWitt said. “You can always have roguish behavior inside of a good corporate culture. And that’s kind of what we believed happen here.”