Back in early January, former Cardinals Scouting Director Chris Correa pled guilty to charges stemming from unauthorized incursions into the Houston Astros’ systems back in 2013 and 2014 (hacking).
Just yesterday, in conjunction with his sentencing, further details surrounding the investigation and the crimes were released. And that sentence was rather severe (46 months in prison).
Although the Federal/governmental portion of this investigation is now at an end, the story isn’t quite over. Major League Baseball will now complete its own investigation (including using much of the information obtained by the F.B.I.), before potentially handing down some form of punishment to the St. Louis Cardinals organization as a whole.
It is still unclear how harsh the Cardinals’ punishment will be, but MLB has suggested the severity of the discipline will largely depend on the organizational participation/awareness of Correa’s actions. So let’s look at some of the results of the court’s comments, punishments and conclusions, to see just where things may wind up.
According to Doug Moore (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), Correa pleaded guilty to five counts of unauthorized access to a protected computer, admittedly using the accounts of three Astros employees to view scouting reports, player evaluations, notes on trade discussions and draft pick bonuses. In addition to the admissions above, the investigation revealed that Correa may have accessed the Houston Astros’ database 60 times on 35 different days, while taking protective measures to conceal his identity throughout the process.
Correa gained access to the Astros’ database of information through a stolen password obtained when one of the former Cardinals executives (likely Jeff Lunhow) turned in his Cardinals’ laptop before leaving the organization. As one example of a hack (per the Post-Dispatch), on March 24, 2013, Correa reportedly viewed an “Excel file of every amateur player eligible for the draft as well as the Astros’ internal evaluations and the scouts’ proposed bonuses to offer the players.”
The value of all the stolen information has been estimated at $1.7 million by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Thus, the sentence also includes a restitution payment of $279,038.65. Severe may be an understatement.
But the punishment was severe, because the crimes were severe – at least in the eyes of the court. On top of the breach outlined above, Correa accessed scouting information on amateur players during the draft (and accessed Astros notes on players the Cardinals had drafted), notes on Cardinals’ prospects, trade discussions, and much more (of what the court is calling) “confidential information.”
Considering the fact that Major League Baseball was awaiting the outcome of the sentencing before handing down punishments of its own, this isn’t a good start for the Cardinals. That said, the investigation (or at least the information that has so far reached the public) hasn’t seemed to uncover much organizational involvement (well, beyond that of a very high-level executive), so a lot is still up in the air. We know only that Correa says he told others in the Cardinals organization.
But make no mistake, the ball is in MLB’s court, and they’re ready to move on it. In a statement issued shortly after the sentencing (ESPN), MLB indicated that the Commissioner has asked the Department of Investigations to do what they do and conduct a complete investigation into the facts of the matter, including information requests from law enforcement. The statement later added that the “The Commissioner hopes that the investigation can be completed promptly to put him in a position to take appropriate action.”
We’ll see where things ultimately land, but I wouldn’t consider the recent Red Sox punishments as precedent. The Commissioner has already indicated that there aren’t many similarities between the two infractions (the Red Sox admitted to organizational involvement), though it’s hard to know which way that cuts. And, of course, everything changes if MLB’s investigation reveals new information. Which is why there’s just no point in speculation right now.
I suspect we’ll hear the results of MLB’s investigation soon with the punishments quickly thereafter. As always, we’ll keep you updated.