If you thought all the juicy drama was over in the St. Louis Cardinals hacking scandal, then you would be wrong. A federal judge has unsealed numerous documents related to the case — including findings from federal investigators and theories of the prosecutor who was prepared to try ex-Cardinals executive Chris Correa before he pled guilty in January.
These new details, published first by the Houston Chronicle, tell us about the various intrusions that Correa made into the Houston Astros’ proprietary scouting databases, what he was looking for and what his motivations appear to have been. Correa is serving a 46-month sentence in federal prison, but that might not be all of the punishment in this matter.
Major League Baseball has yet to impose any penalties on the Cardinals. Many in baseball have been waiting for that other shoe to drop since the criminal portion of the proceedings wrapped up. With these documents now unsealed, The Chronicle reports punishment from MLB could come as soon as this week.
If you’re new to all this: News broke in June 2015 that the Cardinals were being investigated by the FBI for hacking into the Astros’ scouting database. The link is Astros GM Jeff Luhnow, who was a former Cardinals exec, who left for Houston in Decembrer 2011 and brought with him some other Cardinals execs. Correa, who remained with the Cardinals was eventually promoted to director of scouting, used passwords from his Cardinals co-workers to access the Astros databases. He was fired by the Cardinals seven months before taking the plea deal and a month after the news of the scandal broke.
And as it turns out, according to these new documents published by The Chronicle, Correa accessed the Astros information quite often:
… Correa intruded into the Astros’ “Ground Control” database 48 times and accessed the accounts of five Astros employees. For 2 1/2 years, beginning in January 2012, Correa had unfettered access to the e-mail account of Sig Mejdal, the Astros’ director of decision sciences and a former Cardinals employee. Correa worked in St. Louis as an analyst under Mejdal, who came to Houston after the 2011 season with Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, also a former Cardinals executive.
“(Correa) knew what projects the Astros’ analytics department was researching, what concepts were promising and what ideas to avoid,” said one of the documents, signed by Michael Chu, the assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case against Correa. “He had access to everything that Sig Mejdal … read and wrote.”
Correa also attempted to gain access to the accounts of Bo Porter, the Astros’ manager in 2013-14, and pitching coach Brent Strom, and he used passwords belonging to Luhnow, Astros analyst Colin Wyers, and three Astros minor league players to gain access to the Astros system, the documents show.
So, basically, Correa was allegedly trying to get into the accounts various Astros staff members — even the coaches and players, which is an interesting new wrinkle in the case.
The original defense by Correa and Cardinals sympathizers was that he was looking to make sure Luhnow didn’t steal any of their proprietary information when he bolted for Houston. That wasn’t exactly the case, considering this went on for two and a half years and ramped up around key dates for scouting departments: the winter meetings, the amateur draft, the trade deadline.
The new documents go into specific detail about the 2013 draft, during which Correa was looking at the Astros medical reports and scouting records on specific players, as well as their rankings of players in the draft and their notes on the Cardinals.
What might be the most telling part of all this is what Chu, the prosecutor, decided were Correa’s motives. Again, from The Chronicle:
Chu also wrote Correa studied the Astros’ trade notes “at least 14 times” as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approached and again before the annual general managers’ meetings and winter meetings the following offseason.
“Ultimately, Correa was not intruding to see if the Astros took any information — rather, he was keenly focused on information that coincided with the work he was doing for the Cardinals,” Chu concluded.
Chu wrote that even if Correa hid his activity from his Cardinals colleagues, “his access to the Astros’ information was still invaluable. Before he proposed an idea, he could quietly check what another analytics-minded organization thought. He also could supplement his own ideas with the ideas of the Astros’ analytics department because he knew what projects the Astros’ analytics department was researching, what concepts they found promising, what ideas they had discarded.”
This flies in the face of how some people initially reacted to the case. Instead of Correa being vengeful against his ex-co-workers, this makes it sound like he just wasn’t confident enough in his own work. He needed, you could say, to look at someone else’s homework before turning his in.
Ultimately, that could be good for the Cardinals, because this portrait of Correa changes how we view the hacking scandal to some degree. This makes it sound less like organizational dysfunction and more like a rogue executive looking for help in the wrong place.
The Cardinals should face a penalty for that, because Correa worked for them and they benefited from his law-breaking, but most of the blame deserves to be on Correa.
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