When a federal judge sentenced former St. Louis Cardinals executive Chris Correa in July to 46 months in prison for hacking into Houston Astros internal databases, Major League Baseball was supposedly already on the case.
The league said it launched a probe way back in June 2015, when news of the hacking became public — yet last week, Commissioner Rob Manfred said the league is still looking into the matter, and hopes to complete its investigation after the World Series concludes. In the meantime, news about the case has been sparse.
It’s puzzling that this investigation has taken so long. The Cardinals have admitted that Correa was their employee, and that he hacked into the Astros network while he was an employee. Correa has even admitted to the act, that he did so on behalf of the Cardinals, with the intent of aiding the ball club — though the Cardinals have attempted to distance themselves from Correa and his actions.
It took the league less than six weeks to investigate the San Diego Padres this summer after a Padres trade was rescinded after an undisclosed injury was discovered. League investigators determined that Padres General Manager A.J. Preller deliberately concealed player medical information when discussing trades with other clubs. He was subsequently suspended for 30 days.
So how is it that Major League Baseball can so quickly come to a punishment with regards to the Padres while dragging out this investigation involving the Cardinals? Especially since there’s not really that much to investigate. One issue is that Correa refused to cooperate with the league's investigators, and apparently, the Department of Justice didn’t provide a full report to the league.
“Candidly, I wish it had gone a little faster,” Manfred told reporters. “I wish it had gotten a little more help a little sooner from the U.S. attorney's office. But the cards come up how they come up, and we're going to finish our investigation, and there will be a resolution of that during this off-season.”
But this really shouldn’t be that difficult for the league. Correa admitted to the court that he illegally gained access to the Astros network a dozen times from 2013 to 2014, and that he accessed information and files regarding players and the draft and told his colleagues. Correa even seemed proud of his actions, and at times said he acted because he believed that Astros GM Jeff Luhnow had stolen proprietary information from the Cardinals.
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Former Astros beat writer Jose de Jesus Ortiz (now a columnist in St. Louis) speculates that there will be a punishment leveled on the Cardinals, likely a $250,000 fine and a forfeited second-round pick in the amateur draft. But I don’t think this, or any punishment of the Cardinals, is going to happen.
I think Manfred will claim that owing to Correa’s lack of cooperation, and a lack of information from the Justice Department, there is no way for the league to conclusively determine the Cardinals were involved with Correa’s actions. By that logic, Major League Baseball can't punish the Cardinals.
I instead see Major League Baseball suspending Correa from the league for a set amount of time, with that clock starting only after he is released from prison. This would be akin to the punishment for Preller’s actions for the Padres, where only the GM was punished, and not his club — even though Preller was acting on behalf of the team to make the Padres better.
While this is without a doubt a copout, it shouldn’t really be that surprising. The Cardinals are supposedly one of MLB’s outstanding franchises, and the team is always spotlighted as one of those teams that do things the right way, and it’s likely that the league will do everything possible to keep from sanctioning an esteemed franchise when blame can easily be leveled on one rogue individual.