Friday’s acceptance of a guilty plea on five federal charges by former St. Louis Cardinals executive Chris Correa appeared to signal the end of the federal investigation of illegal access into the Houston Astros’ computer systems.
Comments from US attorneys and prosecutors indicated that Correa was the lone perpetrator and his acceptance of guilt reinforced that they got their man. All that appears to remain is Correa’s April 11 sentencing.
Yet, as neat and tidy as everything appeared to be, Correa himself left a door ajar. In his comments in court, he told the judge that he had shared his discovery with colleagues. No further discussion about the matter occurred, including logical questions such as “Who?” and “When?”
Astros attorney Giles Kibbe made a similar statement, saying that Correa had reported his findings to the Cardinals, who chose not to pursue the matter. The lawyer neither identified his source nor clarified which individuals allegedly received the information.
It should be noted that no one other than Correa has been publicly suspected of accessing Houston’s systems. Yet, even if Correa acted alone, he is still saying that others knew, a matter about which the investigators have not commented specifically.
One must assume that during the investigation, a number of staffers in the Cardinals hierarchy were questioned, but perhaps no conclusions could be drawn. If that is the case, why not say so, clearing their reputations and removing the lingering questions surrounding their employer?
These reminders that Correa seems to know more than the public has been told are distracting at best and damaging at worst.
During Monday’s press conference to announce the signing of Korean pitcher Seung-hwan Oh, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak was taken off track, specifically asked if he was confident that no other member of his front office would be implicated.
“Yes,” said Mozeliak.
He then took what seems like a half-step backward.
“I hope there isn’t,” he continued. “I think before we totally engage in answering everything, we need these proceedings to be concluded.”
Of course, Mozeliak is hardly wired into the feds’ plans. He readily admitted that he did not know the extent of Correa’s multi-year encroachment into Houston’s systems until reading Correa’s publicly-released plea bargain.
Yet, the team has to field the inquiries about the remaining questions with the case because they are accessible and the feds are not.
Blowback at the Cardinals nationally has been strong. A number of national media members and at least one prominent local radio personality have come out in favor of Major League Baseball assessing significant penalties against the team. Clearing up any lingering uncertainty about who else may have had knowledge of the data breach and when would seem an important prerequisite to handing down sanctions.
Even some Cardinals fans are skeptical about the information provided to date. Several members of one Cardinals-focused social media group which I monitor are asking each other if Correa is taking the fall for others in the organization who they suspect had knowledge of his actions.
Correa could be lying, which is certainly not out of the question. Then again, it is not crazy to wonder if some colleagues could have learned of his activity at some point over a multi-year period.
The key point is that no one from the investigation has taken exception to Correa’s claim, backed by Houston’s lawyer, with the already-damaged reputation of the Cardinals at risk of taking further blows.
This question should be cleared up. Someone from the investigation should stand up and clarify what they learned regarding others in the Cardinals organization.
Unless they do, even after Correa is sentenced and the Cardinals’ punishment from MLB is assessed, some will not allow this stain on the team’s reputation to fully fade away.
They will continue to speculate about who else knew, what else may be hidden from view and wonder why the public has not been told the complete story.
No one will benefit from that.
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