The details in the Cardinals-Astros hacking scandal are insane

Big League Stew
Christopher Correa (Cardinals)
Christopher Correa (Cardinals)

On the third day of the 2013 MLB draft, the scouting director of the St. Louis Cardinals hacked into the Houston Astros' database and accessed the club's notes on players that hadn't been drafted yet. The same thing happened weeks later, on the day of the MLB trading deadline.

So goes the U.S. Attorney's indictment against Christopher Correa, who pleaded guilty Friday in federal court to five counts of unauthorized access of a protected computer. Correa was fired from his job as St. Louis' scouting director in July but denied any wrongdoing at the time.

[Related: Former Cards employee pleads guilty in hacking scandal]

His tune was different Friday. Under questioning from Judge Lynn Hughes, Correa said of his actions: "Stupid, I know." The judge later accepted his plea and chose April 11 as Correa's sentencing date.

More fascinating than Correa's court appearance were the details in the Dec. 22 court filing that became public Friday. The U.S. Attorney's claim — which came after months of FBI investigation spurred by a leak of internal documents in July 2014 — had a number of explosive details, beyond any type of drama we're used to seeing in baseball. 

The other man at the center of this is Astros GM Jeff Luhnow, who joined the club in 2011 after working as a Cardinals executive. The FBI's investigation said Correa was able to gain access to Houston's proprietary Ground Control database because he knew Luhnow's old password from his Cardinals computer. The U.S. Attorney called it a "similar (albeit obscure) password." 

You can read through the entire five-page filing below, via Deadspin, but here are the more startling details:

• Correa accessed the Astros' Ground Control system on June 8, 2013 (the third day of the draft) and looked at Houston's reports on players. Among them: one player the Astros would pick that day, a player who was drafted by another team and the players the Cardinals drafted the previous day.

• On July 31, 2013, the MLB trade deadline, Correa accessed Ground Control and looked at the Astros' notes on trade discussions.

• On March 10, 2014, Correa gained access to Ground Control after the Astros had changed its URL and all of its users' passwords. In the days before this breach, the Astros' system had gotten national attention from a Houston Chronicle article, so they changed the URL and reset everyone's passwords in order to prevent this exact type of activity. However, Correa hacked into an exec's e-mail account to get the new URL and password, then viewed 118 pages of the Astros' draft rankings, scouting reports and trade notes.

Chris Correa Document by Deadspin

In court on Friday, Correa confirmed a popular theory about his motive: He wanted to see if Luhnow had brought any of the Cardinals' proprietary information with him to Houston. 

Here's the court play-by-play on that matter, from David Barron of the Houston Chronicle:

The Astros denied that later Friday:

While we wait to see what Correa's court punishment will be, we should also expect a punishment of some kind from MLB directed at the Cardinals. There's no precedent for a case like this one, so it's hard to say what Commissioner Rob Manfred might deem appropriate. 

[Elsewhere: Giants sign outfielder Denard Span to three-year deal]

Nonetheless, the details gathered by the FBI and presented by the U.S. Attorney paint a sordid picture of what's possible in the modern MLB front office. It's hard to imagine MLB letting digital espionage slide, even if Correa acted alone and no one in St. Louis' front office knew what he was doing. 

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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