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TCN Blog 2016 Top Story #9: Correa Convicted, No Cardinals Closure

The squeaky-clean reputation of the St. Louis Cardinals has been badly sullied by the prison sentence handed down to former team executive Chris Correa. In Federal Court in Houston in January, the team’s ex-scouting director pleaded guilty to five of 12 counts of unauthorized access to computer information in violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

correa-h-200After several delays, in July, the 35-year-old was sentenced to 46 months in prison followed by two years of supervised release and was assessed a fine of $279,038.65. Damages caused were estimated to total $1.7 million through Correa’s access of Houston Astros player assessment and internal email systems, which included statistics, projections, analyses and involved draft and trade evaluations.

Correa could have been given a maximum of five years in prison on each count, but prosecutors had agreed that the sentences would be served concurrently in return for his guilty plea. The New Hampshire native began serving his time in late August.

Correa illegally breached Astros internal systems over a 16-month period, starting in March 2013 and continuing through June 2014, including 60 times in one 35-day time span, according to court testimony. He stated that his original motivation was a suspicion that former Cardinals employees who had moved on to the Astros had taken St. Louis’ intellectual property with them.

The breach of Houston’s systems became public in the summer of 2014 when a number of internal Astros emails outlining player evaluations and trade discussions with other teams were posted anonymously on the internet, apparently leaked with the intention of embarrassing the club.

That triggered a federal investigation which led them to a residence in Jupiter, Florida that had been shared by Correa and other Cardinals employees during spring training. FBI agents seized computers from team offices in St. Louis in February 2015 and following an internal probe, Correa was fired that June – shortly following the draft and after news of the federal investigation became public.

Cardinals Chairman and CEO Bill DeWitt Jr. condemned the actions as “roguish behavior” and made it clear that neither he nor General Manager John Mozeliak, who had promoted Correa from director of baseball development to head of scouting in December 2014, were aware until contacted by investigators.

Correa testified when pleading guilty that he had told “colleagues” with the club about his discovery of Cardinals’ property on Houston’s systems, but was not asked – at least while in court – to name them. No other former or current employees of either team have been charged with any related crimes. Astros officials denied any wrongdoing, characterizing themselves as the “victims”.

Once Correa’s sentencing was past and the federal investigation was complete, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that MLB would ramp up its own probe of the Cardinals, aided by information requested from U.S. attorneys. Undetermined penalties are expected.

This process has continued indefinitely, with Manfred repeatedly stating that the resolution was close. As recently as early November, the commissioner said the investigation was “in the final 10 yards,” yet there is still no closure. Apparently, MLB’s red-zone offense is inefficient.

Seriously, Manfred may be struggling to strike the right balance. On one hand, he may want to establish a firm precedent to discourage team-against-team espionage, especially after characterizing himself as “intolerant” of rules violations. Of course, many both inside and outside of the game are watching this situation because of its trail-blazing nature.

On the other hand, the commissioner may not want to come down too hard on the Cardinals. At the All-Star break in July, Manfred drew a distinction between this case and the Boston Red Sox international bonus sanctions, stating at that point, he had “no indication” that Correa’s actions signaled “an organizational problem.”

That was over five months ago.

Link to The Cardinal Nation Blog’s top 10 stories of the year countdown

Update: On January 30, 2017, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced the penalties to the Cardinals in this case. Full details can be found at The Cardinal Nation.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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20 Responses to “TCN Blog 2016 Top Story #9: Correa Convicted, No Cardinals Closure”

  1. JumboShrimp says:

    A lot hinges on whether there was any practical truth in Correas claim that he told colleagues.
    If what he did was common knowledge within the organization, he would have been fired much sooner.
    I have wondered if he suffered delusions. Leaking emails was a strange thing to do and not rational.
    Or he could have said something that was so odd, others did not know what he meant by it.
    It’s a sad tale of self destruction.

    • JumboShrimp says:

      Complicating additional parts of the story are how many employees the Astros recruited away from the cardinals. It’s also plausible luhnow took all the ideas he developed working for the cards to use for Houston. This is likely legal, but it’s really hard to see the Astros as “victims”. That’s utter bull.

      • Brian Walton says:

        Uh, the crimes for which Correa is in prison were committed against the Astros. So yes, that would make them the victim.

        If other crimes were suspected of having been committed, no one apparently is pursuing them. The prosecutors said their work was done when Correa was sentenced.

        • JumboShrimp says:

          Luhnow hires Correa, who turns out to be wacky or over ambitious. Jeff does not change his computer password. And he and the Astros are now victims? At that rate, everybody on the planet is a victim of something.

          • Brian Walton says:

            Jumbo, we have been through this already. Leaving your house unlocked does not absolve the crime of breaking and entering. Take off your red glasses, please.

          • JumboShrimp says:

            Excluding extenuating circumstances may be satisfying, but somehow I doubt the commissioner is an anti Cardinal jihadist.

          • JumboShrimp says:

            It’s good to be ethical, but you could be too close to this. You once abhorred Boras, but thru the years seem to have mellowed into more realistic perspective.
            It’s good to have opinions and base them on ethics, but the commissioner should consider all the facts and the best interests of the game.

            • Brian Walton says:

              If “being too close to this” means a better understanding and a more objective view of the facts than you, certainly that is true. I have endured months of clearly-biased Cardinals fans trying to wish and hope away a serious crime by soft-pedaling the facts of the case. I consider being ethical a positive without exception.

              You again are taking license with my words. I challenge you to show where I said I abhor Boras, but as always, you will be unable to back your assertion. I respect him but I dislike what he stands for. His well-earned reputation is for promoting greed. He is a smart businessman, taking every advantage of what MLB, another group known for money-making over all, gives him. His free agent policies have never made him a friend of the fan. Sure, there are exceptions, but as I said, his reputation has been earned, so my opinion of him is pretty irrelevant – especially in this discussion.

              I will close on one point, on which we agree, perhaps because it is so vague, it could include any likely outcome. The commissioner will do what HE BELIEVES is in the best interests of the game.

              • JumboShrimp says:

                The world seems awash in hacking. Some perpetrators reputedly copied all personnel files of the US federal government. Emails of John podesta appeared at Wikileaks. A great number of state department emails were at Wikileaks a couple of years ago. A contractor for the nsa ran off to Russia after downloading a lot of classified stuff. Secretary Clinton had classified emails on a private server. A lot of very sensitive information being grabbed, consequential stuff. It’s horrible.
                Possibly the only perp to be imprisoned comes from the entertainment world of baseball, chris Correa. The fbi can’t catch the perpetrators of terrible hacking crimes against the USA, but at least the competition among baseball teams is safe from Correa.
                Correa is paying for his crime. Mo did not ask Correa to go rogue. The FBI would still be looking for the perp, if mo did not fire him. Great investigative work by Mo. There is no reason for the commissioner to levy a supplemental penalty on the team as well, given justice has run its course and been served.

                • Brian Walton says:

                  Let’s keep an eye on the timeline as it suggests the Cards may have been less than aggressive in their self-investigation. After the FBI arrived to seize evidence in February, Correa remained active in his scouting director job for months, working beyond the 2015 Draft in early June, his major job responsibility. Only sometime later in June was he “placed on leave”, and fired shortly thereafter, at the start of July.

                  Your conclusion that there is “no reason” to penalize the team is more unrealistic hoping on your part. It is very difficult to have a meaningful conversation with someone who cannot accept reality. The only questions at this point are what Manfred’s penalty will be and when he announces it. Deal with it.

              • JumboShrimp says:

                Thanks for ultimately cinfirming my point that you dislike boras. You personify him as representing greed.

                Baseball teams generate a lot if revenue. Some begrudge veteran players a right to compete their services among teams. Before players earned a bit of manumission, the owners got to keep almost all the dough for themselves. I like free agency since it provides less wealth for owners and more for those who actually play. It seems more just, on balance.

                • Brian Walton says:

                  Of course, free agency is necessary and a right every player should consider. Like anything in life, it can be taken to extreme. That is what Boras represents, IMO.

                  Sadly, you cannot even represent my views accurately when they are on the screen right in front of your eyes. Again, here is what I wrote: “I respect him but I dislike what he stands for.”

        • JumboShrimp says:

          Luhnow hires Correa, who turns out to be wacky or over ambitious. Jeff does not change his computer password. And he and the Astros are now victims? At that rate, everybody on the planet is a victim of something.

        • JumboShrimp says:

          The commissioner has discretionary power to fine the cards, even if the misbehavior did not rise to the level of a crime that interests the fib. The commissioner has different responsibilities from the fbi. I doubt he will find grounds to penalize the team beyond a cash fine of $1.7mm, but if he does find grounds, we will support his decision.
          One question is how did the cards develop enough information to discover grounds to fire Correa? This is what mo would need to explain.

          • Brian Walton says:

            If you think the fine will not be more than $1.7 MM, then you are dreaming. Those red glasses are affecting your vision again…

            • JumboShrimp says:

              You must loathe Bob the rosy, down at the other site.

              Hey Bob, I may not be as rosy as you, thank goodness, but it’s good to express your thoughts!

              If the Commissioner were to fine Dewitt $10mm for promoting Luhnow’s nutcase Correa and for not insisting Jeff revise his password down in Houston, so be it. It’s Dewitt’s problem to sell the family silver.

  2. blingboy says:

    “Correa testified when pleading guilty that he had told “colleagues” with the club about his discovery of Cardinals’ property on Houston’s systems, . . . ”

    I was not aware that Correa had ever claimed, to anyone, that he had found Cardinals’ property on Houston’s system. If that is the case, Manfred will be dealing with sanctionable activity by both organizations.

    • Brian Walton says:

      I believe Correa used that assertion to try to justify his repeated access, but it obviously lacked credibility after his 16 months of entering Houston’s systems, including multiple times during the actual draft. There are no indications that Houston is being investigated for anything. I don’t have the article at hand right now, but if my memory serves me correctly, the Cardinals said they did not believe the Astros took their property. If that is true, it seems highly unlikely that Manfred would pursue something both teams indicate is a non-issue and obviously was not found to be chargeable in the federal investigation.

      In other words, at this point, hoping for an “a-ha” revelation to be exposed by Manfred is almost certainly going to lead to disappointment. There is a conviction, so why look to create more doubt? He probably just wants this to go away. After all, nothing about the entire escapade is positive for MLB.

      I had only semi-joked before, wondering if the announcement will be on Christmas or New Years. A Sunday holiday would be about the best possible time to try to bury unpleasant news. 😉

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