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MLB Punishes Cardinals For Hacking Astros Computers

... but not very much.

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

You are, certainly, familiar with the case of former St. Louis Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa, who was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison for hacking into the computer database of the Houston Astros.

Monday, Commissioner Rob Manfred announced MLB’s sanctions to the Cardinals for the actions of their former employee.

The hacking, according to a MLB statement, gave the Astros “material harm.” Accordingly, the commissioner has forfeited the Cardinals’ two highest picks in this June’s draft, their second-round pick and their Compensation Round B pick (56th and 75th overall) to the Astros, and has also ordered the Cardinals to pay the Astros $2 million “within 30 days of the date of this order.” (The $2 million fine is reportedly the most the Commissioner is able to fine any team.)

Manfred’s decision also puts Correa on the permanently ineligible list, effective immediately, meaning he can never again work in baseball.

I’m going to try to approach my thoughts on this without letting the Cubs/Cardinals rivalry get in the way. I’d like to think I’d feel the same if a Cubs employee did anything like this — and having said that, I believe Theo Epstein takes great care to hire high-character people for his front office, the same way he tries to get high-character ballplayers, and I don’t think this will ever happen to the Cubs.

I think this punishment is insufficient. In an MLB press release, Manfred wrote:

The evidence does not establish that any Cardinals’ employee other than Mr. Correa (who was the only individual charged by the federal government) was responsible for the intrusions into the Astros’ system. Accordingly, no Cardinals employee (or former employee) other than Mr. Correa will be subject to discipline by my office.

That’s fair. However, this, from the release, is why I think the punishment is insufficient:

Mr. Correa held positions in the Cardinals’ front office that enabled him to have input into his Club’s decisions and processes. As a result, I am holding the Club vicariously liable for his misconduct.

That’s all well and good, but I don’t think the loss of two draft picks and $2 million (which is just a bit more than the Cardinals will pay Kevin Siegrist in 2017) is sufficient. We don’t know, because no one’s ever really said anything, exactly how much the hacking hurt the Astros. Here’s an article from Deadspin that explains some of what went on.

The Cardinals lost their first-round pick this year when they signed Dexter Fowler. Losing the other two picks noted above will mean simply that the Cardinals’ first pick will be in the third round, 94th overall.

Last year the Cubs lost their first two picks for signing John Lackey and Jason Heyward, and so their first overall pick was 104th overall.

Thus this “punishment” is no worse than if the Cardinals had signed another free agent or two. The money, they can probably find under the couch cushions.

What would I have done? Reduce the Cardinals’ draft money pool and take away more picks. As it is, St. Louis will have the second-lowest pool for 2017, $3,925,500. MLB should have cut that money in half and taken at least two more rounds away from the Cardinals.

Why? Because this punishment is, to me, a slap on the wrist, it might encourage some rogue team employee somewhere to do it again (assuming they are willing to risk prison time). MLB should have dealt a harsh penalty to assure that no team employee anywhere is willing to accept this risk.

To be sure, the Cardinals will be hurt by this. In my view, they should have been hurt more.