Cardinals must give Astros $2M and two draft picks as punishment in hacking scandal

Big League Stew

The St. Louis Cardinals must pay $2 million and give two 2017 draft picks to the Houston Astros,  MLB announced Monday, as punishment in the hacking scandal involving former Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa.

The decision was announced Monday by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, after more than a year of drama surrounded this case. The Astros will receive the 56th pick and 75th pick in the 2017 draft, which are the Cardinals’ second rounder and a compensation-round pick. Those were the highest picks the Cardinals had available in the draft. They’ll also have to pay the Astros $2 million within the next 30 days.

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The scandal dates back to June 2015, when news broke that the Cardinals were being investigated by the FBI for hacking into the Astros’ internal database. Eventually, we learned it was Correa — who is currently serving 46 months in prison after a plea deal — who initiated the breach and had access to scouting reports, medical information and player rankings put together by the Astros’ front office.

Chris Correa in January, outside a federal courthouse in Houston. (AP)
Chris Correa in January, outside a federal courthouse in Houston. (AP)

At one point, Correa had complete access to an Astros executive’s email account for 2 1/2 years. He also accessed Astros’ reports during the trade deadline, winter meetings and during the 2013 MLB Draft. In 2014, some of the Astros internal notes on trade prospects were leaked publicly. Federal investigators deemed Correa was the source.

Correa was fired by the Cardinals a month after the news of the scandal broke. As part of Monday’s decision, Correa will also be placed on MLB’s permanently ineligible list.

The commissioner’s decision was based on finding from a league investigation, including a forensic analysis of both clubs’ electronic system, plus evidence provided by the Cardinals and Astros. After reviewing the evidence, Manfred found that Correa alone was responsible for the hack into the Cardinals database and that no other Cardinals employees would be held accountable.

In his decision, Manfred wrote:

1. The evidence did not establish that any Cardinals’ employee other than Mr. Correa (who was the only individual charged by the federal government) was responsible for the intrusions into the Astros’ electronic systems. Accordingly, no Cardinals’ employee (or former employee) other than Mr. Correa will be subject to discipline by my office.

2. Although Mr. Correa’s conduct was not authorized by the Cardinals, as a matter of MLB policy, I am holding the Cardinals responsible for his conduct. Mr. Correa held positions in the Cardinals’ front office that enabled him to have input into his Club’s decisions and processes. As a result, I am holding the Club vicariously liable for his misconduct.

3. I find that the Astros suffered material harm as a result of Mr. Correa’s conduct. The type of potential competitive harm the Astros suffered as a result of Mr. Correa’s conduct is not amenable to precise quantification. MLB Clubs fiercely compete with each other in their ability to produce and process player-related information. I am prepared to find as a matter of policy that a Club suffers material harm when an employee of another Club illegally accesses its confidential and propriety information, particularly intrusions of the nature and scope present here. In addition, as a result of Mr. Correa’s conduct, the Astros suffered substantial negative publicity and had to endure the time, expense and distraction of both a lengthy government investigation and an MLB investigation.

After the decision was announced by MLB, Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said in a statement:

“We respect the Commissioner’s decision and appreciate that there is now a final resolution to this matter. Commissioner Manfred’s findings are fully consistent with our own investigation’s conclusion that this activity was isolated to a single individual.”

The Astros also released a statement, saying:

“The Houston Astros support MLB’s ruling and award of penalties. This unprecedented award by the Commissioner’s Office sends a clear message of the severity of these actions. Our staff has invested a great deal of time in support of the government, legal and league investigations and are pleased to have closure on this issue. We are looking forward to focusing our attention on the 2017 season and the game of baseball.”

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While two top draft picks and $2 million are undoubtedly penalties that will hurt the Cardinals, some in the game, including Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan, thought the commissioner could have been tougher on the Cardinals.


 

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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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