St. Louis Cardinals Heavily Punished By MLB
In baseball, cheating is generally confined to on-the-field intrigue or the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Corporate espionage is almost unheard of, yet the St. Louis Cardinals discovered on January 30 that such behavior from one of their former employees can come at a huge cost.
As a result of this hacking scandal, the Cardinals will pay damages of $2 million to the Houston Astros for hacking into the Astros’ private database. In addition, they’ll surrender their top two selections in the June First-Year Player Draft. St. Louis has 30 days to pay Houston the $2 million.
The central point of the story zeroes in on the illegal activities of the Cardinals’ former scouting director, Christopher Correa, who is currently in federal prison for his crime. He was sentenced to 46 months in prison for hacking into that Astros database, which gave him access to all of the Astros’ normally confidential inner dealings and medical records of players.
Correa was able to access such information until it was announced in June 2015 that the FBI was investigating the Cardinals for alleged hacking. That investigation had begun in the wake of a news leak that offered information on potential trades that that Astros had been considering, with the trail eventually leading back to Correa.
Within a month of that investigation announcement, the Cardinals fired Correa, who was later indicted before agreeing to plead guilty to five counts of illegal entry to a protected database as part of a plea bargain. In addition, he was personally ordered to pay the Astros $279,000 for his part in the hacking.
Correa was able to hack into the database after a Cardinals employee, Sig Mejdal, had turned in his work laptop prior to taking a job with the Astros. Since Jeff Luhnow, another former St. Louis front office employee, was now serving as Houston’s general manager, Correa tried variations on the password that Mejdal had provided him. Eventually, he was able to get into the database and maintained access for more than two years.
In addition to the financial and competitive penalties inflicted on the Cardinals, the team also sustained a deep hit to their reputation as one of the most respected organizations in baseball. As a result of the scandal, the team has changed their approach to accessing the team’s database. This primarily consists of a login process that now requires two steps before access is granted.
Other than the financial payment, the penalties won’t immediately affect St. Louis, since most draft selections take years before they reach the major league. Houston will have additional money in which to offer draft picks, which could allow them to draft more talented players. However, those players still need to pan out for this to benefit the Astros.
Some have criticized the penalties as weak, stating that the Boston Red Sox were punished more severely last year for a violation with signing international players. None of those actions reached the level of this actual criminal activity.