Cardinals’ punishment in hacking case is near

Documents unsealed this past week by a federal judge in Houston illustrate the “unfettered access” Cardinals executive Chris Correa had to the Astros’ internal database and the illegal avenues followed to determine if the rival club had used any of the Cardinals’ proprietary data.

The details in the documents further aid the commissioner’s office’s investigation and spur it toward completion, something both teams and Major League Baseball have desired. Several sources confirmed to the Post-Dispatch that the commissioner’s ruling and penalties could be finalized any day now.

Resolution could arrive early this week.

The Cardinals have declined to comment on penalties until the commissioner’s conclusions. Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. recently said that the team expects to learn about sanctions before the beginning of spring training, which is set for Valentine’s Day.

“There’s nothing further we plan to do internally, and we’ll react to what the commissioner says and whatever punishment he imposes,” DeWitt said.

Commissioner Rob Manfred has wide power to penalize the Cardinals. He could issue a fine, force the Cardinals to pay damages and reduce the team’s draft picks or its ability to spend on amateur talent. Manfred has explained how the process has taken time to assure that he has a full understanding of Correa’s violations, his motives and the scope of the hacking. Baseball’s investigators had sought assistance from the U.S. attorney and federal investigators, but access to information was limited because it was under a court seal. The unsealed documents give baseball needed insight for its decision.

Correa, the Cardinals’ former director of amateur scouting, pleaded guilty a year ago to five counts of illegal entry to Houston’s database and is serving a 46-month sentence in federal prison. As a result of an internal investigation into the hacking allegations, the Cardinals fired Correa in 2015 just weeks after he directed the team’s draft. Three court documents unsealed Thursday by U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes — and first published by The Houston Chronicle — reveal more about what data Correa accessed, how he did it, and what his attorney attempted to have the Astros produce to prove Correa’s motivation. Sections of the document remain redacted.

Correa stated in his plea agreement that he “intended to cause $1.7 million of loss to the Astros,” one of the unsealed documents states. He accessed the Astros’ database 48 times during a 2½-year period, according to the same court filing, and another document argues that Correa may have personally benefitted from the information and that he accessed data that could not reveal whether the Astros used analytic approaches developed by the Cardinals. In several spots the documents reference Correa’s statement that he “(kept) his intrusions a secret from his colleagues.” The Cardinals and their representatives have maintained that Correa’s superiors did not know about his actions.

Correa looked at the Astros’ medical evaluations of possible draft picks, internal scouting reports and trade discussions the Astros had with teams.

These are “topics that could not possibly help him determine if Astros supposedly took Cardinals information,” the document, signed by assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Chu, states. Chu prosecuted Correa. “Correa studied players whom the Cardinals were thinking of drafting.”

A document describes how in June 2013, Correa accessed the “latest scouting information” on lefthanded pitcher Marco Gonzales in the days leading up to the amateur draft. Correa had previously accessed Houston’s medical reports multiple times in April of that same year. The Cardinals would select Gonzales with the 19th overall pick, and the Gonzaga alum would make his major-league debut a year later, in 2014. The documents show Correa used the accounts of five different Astros employees to access the database, though the initial entries came through the account of Sig Mejdal.

Mejdal followed Jeff Luhnow to Houston in January 2012 when Luhnow was hired as the Astros’ general manager. DeWitt had hired Luhnow almost a decade earlier to help the Cardinals revamp and modernize their scouting approach. Luhnow, who oversaw the draft and eventually the farm system, introduced many statistical models for the Cardinals, and Mejdal was part of a group that created the databases and metrics for the Cardinals. Correa was also part of the group. Mejdal, for example, helped the Cardinals gather statistical data from all amateur levels and, through a proprietary algorithm, determine what a player at, say, a Division II school could be expected to do at a Class A short-season team.


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