Former Cardinals' scouting director Chris Correa's actions has cost the Cardinals their top two picks in this year's draft and $2 million.


By Rob Rains

Houston Astros’ owner Jim Crane’s prediction Sunday the Cardinals would be hit with “significant” penalties for a former employee’s repeated hacks into the Astros’ computer database came true less 24 hours later.

In a strongly worded decision announced by Major League Baseball on Monday, Commissioner Rob Manfred stripped the Cardinals of their top two picks in this year’s June amateur draft, awarding them to the Astors, and also ordered the Cardinals to pay the Astros $2 million as compensation for the actions of former scouting director Chris Correa.

The commissioner also said that Correa, currently serving a 46-month sentence in a federal prison, would be permanently barred from working in baseball again.

Manfred’s ruling also said that there was no evidence that any Cardinals’ employee other than Correa was involved or had any knowledge of the hacks and therefore no other current or former Cardinals employee would be subject to discipline from Major League Baseball.

General Manager John Mozeliak met with reporters at Busch Stadium after the ruling was announced and said the Cardinals understand and accept the penalties imposed by the commissioner.

“Even though we (as an organization) didn’t do anything wrong, we understand that the commissioner had to make a decision and that ruling obviously affects us,” Mozeliak said. “His message is, ‘This can’t happen again.’ Therefore, the penalty did have to be stiff.

“I don’t think I’m going to weigh in on if I thought it was harsh or not. The reality is the commissioner had to make a decision and we respect that decision.”

Team chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. did not speak at the press conference but did issue a brief statement through the Cardinals’ public relations department.

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

Correa plead guilty in January of 2015 in U.S. District Court in Houston to five counts of illegally accessing private computer information. In court documents released last week, the U.S. Attorney said its investigation found Correa had actually hacked into the Astros’ computer database or email server on 48 occasions.

The hacks occurred while Correa was working as the head of the Cardinals’ analytics department, prior to Correa being promoted to scouting director in December 2014. When the FBI investigation and the team’s internal investigation discovered Correa’s involvement he was fired by the Cardinals in July 2015.

“This incident was isolated to the conduct of one rogue employee who was acting on his own volition and for his own personal reasons,” Mozeliak said in an opening statement at his press conference.

Mozeliak labeled Correa’s behavior as “completely inappropriate, unlawful and should not in any way be tolerated.”

“The conduct is contrary to everything the Cardinals organization is about,” he said. “No one in the Cardinals organization directed or authorized him to access the Astros database or knew he was viewing Astros confidential and proprietary information.”

Correa began serving his prison sentence last August at a federal facility in Cumberland, Maryland.

“Clearly disappointed,” Mozeliak said about Correa’s actions. “You would rather not be sitting here and having this discussion and having to defend what’s happened. You look at his actions and what it led to, and it’s certainly not positive for anybody involved, including himself. If you could hit the reset button and re-do history you would certainly try. But unfortunately we can’t.”

Manfred’s ruling said although there was no indication the Cardinals authorized or had knowledge of Correa’s actions, he was holding the organization responsible for his conduct and found that Correa had caused “material harm” to the Astros.

“Mr. Correa held positions in the Cardinals front office that enabled him to have input into his club's decisions and processes,” Manfred said in his ruling. “As a result I am holding the club vicariously liable for his misconduct.

“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 acquire 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.”

The draft picks transferred to the Astros are the 56th and 75th overall selections, the Cardinals’ picks in the second round and a compensatory pick they had been awarded following the second round. The Cardinals did not have a first-round pick this year as a result of signing free agent Dexter Fowler and there were some who had expected the team would be stripped of its first-round pick in the 2018 draft as well.

As a result of losing the two draft picks, the Cardinals will now have just one pick among the top 100 selections in this year’s draft, the 94th overall choice, their pick in the third round. They also will lose the slot money that had been associated with those top two picks which also will impact their draft selections through the rest of the top 10 rounds.

Crane spoke on Sunday when he was in Springfield, Mo., where he was one of several people inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame. Crane is a native of St. Louis and was enshrined for his contributions to the baseball program at Central Missouri State, where he was a star pitcher.

“Based on the results of the investigation I think you will see something significant there,” Crane told STLSportsPage.com. “It’s unfortunate for everybody.”

That was something Mozeliak acknowledged as well on Monday.

“I was embarrassed for what happened,” he said. “When you look back it is not something we will ever be proud of. It is disappointing it happened.”

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