As the sign-stealing scandal involving the Houston Astros continues to dominate headlines, it’s sometimes hard to remember that they were once victims of another scandal. In 2015, the FBI and Justice Department launched an investigation into the St. Louis Cardinals organization for hacking into the internal database of the Astros. Here’s how things played out and how the Astros responded to being the victims of a cheating scandal instead of the focus of one.
How did the Astros get cheated?
The story revolves around former St. Louis Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa. Oddly enough, former Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow was linked to this scandal as well. Luhnow was a former executive in the Cardinals organization before leaving for Houston in 2011, taking a few others from the club with him.
Upon Luhnow’s departure, Correa used passwords from his former Cardinals co-workers to access certain databases in Houston. It was determined that over a two-and-a-half-year period, Correa accessed the Astros’ “Ground Control” database close to 50 times. He had unlimited access to the e-mail account of five Astros employees, including Houston’s director of sciences, another former Cardinals employee, and gained access to all of the analytical projects Houston was working on.
This allowed Correa access to crucial competitive and economic plans, including information on the winter meetings, scouting reports, and trade discussions. Correa maintained that he was only hacking the Astros’ systems to ensure they hadn’t stolen any information from St. Louis.
How were the St. Louis Cardinals punished?
In July 2016, Correa pled guilty to what amounted to 12 counts or corporate espionage and was sentenced by a federal judge to 46 months in prison. He was also fined close to $280,000 and was placed on baseball’s permanently ineligible list, the same list that includes Pete Rose.
As for the Cardinals’ punishment, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred fined the team two million dollars. Although it was determined that Correa acted alone and nobody else in the organization did anything wrong, Manfred still levied the fine since the acts were performed on St. Louis’ watch.
The Cardinals were also forced to send the Astros their two highest picks in the 2017 MLB draft. They had lost the 19th overall pick after signing Dexter Fowler, so they sent the No. 56 and No. 75 picks to Houston.
What was the reaction to the scandal?
As it was when the punishment for the Astros came down, the punishment levied against the Cardinals didn’t go over well with some fans. “That’s it?” was the common phrase used at the time, which is very similar to what’s happening now in Houston.
However, the Astros seemed to take it all in stride.
“The Houston Astros support MLB‘s ruling and award of penalties. This unprecedented award by the Commissioner’s Office sends a clear message of the severity of these actions. Our staff has invested a great deal of time in support of the government, legal and league investigations and are pleased to have closure on this issue. We are looking forward to focusing our attention on the 2017 season and the game of baseball.”Houston Astros official team statement
It’s a good thing that no type of investigation will ever be associated with the 2017 Houston Astros season, isn’t it?