If you missed the (recently) biggest MLB news, the San Diego Padres and their executives have taken some heat (and actual punishment) from Major League Baseball for purposefully breaking rules to gain leverage in trade negotiations.
In short, the Padres did not log all of the medical treatment they provided to players (like Drew Pomeranz) with the league’s central medical information bank. As a result, they were effectively hiding injury information from competitors and trade partners (like the Boston Red Sox).
Although General Manager A.J. Preller has been suspended for 30 days without pay, no other/further punishments are expected to come down on any other executives or the Padres as a whole.
In response to the (perceived) light-handed disciplinary action, many (FanGraphs) different (Fox Sports) sources (Yahoo Sports) are suggesting that the Padres “got off easy.” When you consider 1) the low frequency of transactions this time of year, 2) the overall organizational involvement and 3) the repeating (and almost painfully intentional) nature of the offense, it becomes difficult to disagree.
But if you find yourself indifferent to the infraction or even the disciplinary actions taken thereafter, let me apprise you of one important fact: this is very good news for the Cardinals.
As you are undoubtedly aware, the St. Louis Cardinals hacking scandal/saga has meandered on in the background of the 2016 MLB season. Even after the Federal investigation and punishment has come and gone, the Cardinals remain unpunished by Major League Baseball (as an investigation of their own is supposedly underway). But might the Padres’ case (including the disciplinary measures) set a precedent for the Cardinals?
Jeff Passan thinks so: “While the Padres broke no laws, their case bears a striking resemblance to the Cardinals’ hacking, only in the inverse: Rather than gain an advantage by acquiring information, San Diego did so by omitting it. If, as ESPN reported, the Padres did so to gain an advantage, it is every bit as ethically repugnant as [former Cardinals Scouting Director Chris] Correa’s deeds and potentially even more costly.”
If the Cardinals hack to gain information is considered similar to the Padres’ desire to withhold information, it’s reasonable to expect the punishment to be similar as well – except maybe not. Maybe the Cardinals punishment will be much lighter.
Already, we have Jeff Passan suggesting that the Padres’ deeds were “potentially even more costly,” which is good news for the Cardinals (relatively), but it doesn’t end there. While the Padres’ organizational involvement (as a whole) in withholding information has been well-documented and accepted (low level trainers were told to keep separate files on players, and they did), the FBI and MLB have been unable to identify the same organizational involvement for the Cardinals.
In fact, that might be the Cardinals’ saving grace.
In short, even if MLB could pin the same level of organizational involvement on the Cardinals, the punishment would be – at worst – as bad as what the Padres received (30 almost entirely meaningless days without their GM). Given the general consensus that the Padres’ punishment is already wholly underwhelming (Dave Cameron believes they’re certainly better off with the punishment than they would have been by not withholding the information), you’ve got to believe the Cardinals are pretty thrilled with these results.
And that’s if MLB can discover evidence of organizational involvement.
If they cannot find a way to prove that the Cardinals hacking scandal involved many front office executives, scouts, analysts, or otherwise, the Cardinals punishment could be minimal. Cameron has come out and said that he doesn’t believe MLB is putting up serious deterrents to other organizations, to follow in the footsteps of the Cardinals and Padres, and I believe he is right. It’s almost impossible to believe either organization is somehow worse off than they were, even with their “punishments.”
Hopefully, that won’t continue to be the case. Not because we are petty Cubs fans who want to see the Cardinals struggle, but because what happened in the Cardinals hack merits serious punishment.
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