Two years ago, on the day Chris Correa was promoted to be their scouting director, the St. Louis Cardinals lauded his work with them as “invaluable.”
On Monday, the commissioner went ahead and put a firm price tag on that: $2 million and two draft picks to the Houston Astros, that on top of the 46 months jail time and more than quarter-million dollars in personal restitution.
Correa was the mid-30s, prime-of-his career guy who supplemented his over-healthy job ambition by hacking into Astros computers over a two-plus-year period, which presumably served to boost his worth to the Cardinals while also settling old scores with former co-workers.
Now he’s the mid-30s, permanently banned-from-baseball guy who is scratching off days on a wall, the guy who ultimately damaged two franchises, the guy who took you-ain’t-cheatin’-you-ain’t-tryin’ straight into the game’s analytics age, or followed it in, or something.
The Astros maybe break even, if they’re lucky, because weighing extra cash and a couple new employees against the theft of intellectual property and real property and whatever else Correa lifted is a blurry pursuit. In addition to the obvious competitive issues of having a rival monitoring their moves and opinions in near real time, there also was the embarrassment and detriment of having all that go public, which it did. They’re awarded the 18th pick, the 56th pick and some spending money.
The Cardinals maybe break even, too, depending on what 2½ years of insider information did for their own drafts, their own farm system, their own evaluations of players, their own medical reports, as presumably they benefited not only from what the Astros held, but also from what organizations the Astros communicated with held. And now the embarrassment is theirs, though big companies get over that sort of sentiment easier than most. The Cardinals get hurt, but not as bad as it could have been, or even should have been. Asked to make a precedent-setting decision, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred’s touch was lighter than most expected.
Really, probably, everybody loses, especially the guy in jail.
The feds and Major League Baseball determined Correa acted alone, that the man was driven by jealousy and anger and, perhaps, fear and, probably, greed and, likely, insecurity, so he offered for sacrifice the very career he sought to buttress, not to mention his freedom.
That’s a long, lonely trip, right? From the day Chris Correa popped his first password to the day a federal agent knocked on his door? Maybe three years of silent victories. A few pangs of conscience? A life in which yesterday’s brilliance – some of which was scraped from the back of someone else’s work – had to be replicated today, anxiety that could have sent him back into the files of Ground Control, again and again.
A team around him. Friends around him. Men who shared the at-all-costs competitiveness the game holds dear, whose jobs also leaned on final scores, on September standings, on Baseball America system rankings, on winning a trade, and Correa took that long trip alone?
A guy who was so insecure he’d root around for a password for hours. To get, like, a little background on a sore shoulder or something. That guy. OK.
Manfred noted Monday that Correa was, “The only individual charged by the federal government,” and that the league’s investigation uncovered no other Cardinals employee who may have been involved. Team chairman Bill DeWitt, in his statement, said, “Commissioner Manfred’s findings are fully consistent with our own investigation’s conclusion that this activity was isolated to a single individual.”
You know what you know, I guess, and maybe Chris Correa went out on his own and stayed out on his own, and maybe he’s the next generation Greg Anderson – the details change but the sword upon which he falls is angled well enough.
Whatever, it will have to do for now.