The judge handling former Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa’s criminal case for hacking the Astros in 2013-14 has unsealed a great deal more information from the case, and the scope of Correa’s misdeeds is once again even broader than we previously thought. (And we were already struck by just how broad we thought they were!)
You can read the details at the Houston Chronicle, noting that Correa accessed Astros proprietary material 48(!) times over a two and a half year period, did so in connection with specific MLB events, accessed email accounts, and also tried to access a number of additional Astros’ employees’ email accounts, but was unsuccessful.
When you read more about the timing of his incursions, the targets, and the volume, two things become very clear: (1) the defense that he was merely looking to see if former Cardinals executive Jeff Luhnow took proprietary information when he left for the Astros is so obviously bogus, and (2) there is no chance that the Cardinals did not benefit from his incursions.
Consider just one example of how Correa’s incursions could have directly impact the Cardinals’ organizational approach to the draft: “That same day, Correa checked the Astros’ latest reports on Marco Gonzales, a lefthanded pitcher from Gonzaga who two months later the Cardinals drafted with the 19th overall pick.” The Cardinals had access to another organization’s scouting reports for months on a guy they later wound up drafting in the first round.
Even if no one else at the Cardinals knew what Correa was doing – I have my strong doubts – the organization benefited from his misdeeds by having better, broader information about amateur and professional players. And the problem with a “lone wolf” defense is that every organization in the world is made up of a collection of “lone wolves.” If an MLB organization cannot be punished when it benefits from one of its top executives stealing from another MLB organization, then I have a hard time seeing when league-wide, organization-level punishment would ever be justified.
Further, the league has to incentivize teams to do whatever they can to prevent these situations – even so-called “lone wolves” – from happening, because they are the only available firewall.
Punishment for the Cardinals could come as soon as this week, according to the Chronicle.
The most recent timetable, suggested by Cardinals Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr., had punishment expected before Spring Training. Given recent punishments for IFA shenanigans (Red Sox, semi-harsh) and hiding medical information from trade partners (Padres, surprisingly light), it’s hard to say just how firmly MLB will come down on this one. Given the nexus between the hack and the draft, it sure seems like stripping draft picks, at a minimum, would be appropriate. (In that regard, it may prove … convenient for the Cardinals that they don’t have a first rounder this year anyway, after signing Dexter Fowler.)