A look inside the wild, convoluted Cardinals hacking scandal

A Cardinals employee hacked the Houston Astros internal system in 2013 and 2014.
Image: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The 2017 MLB season won’t begin for another two months, but the Houston Astros are already big winners.

On Monday, Major League Baseball ordered the St. Louis Cardinals to send $2 million and their top two 2017 draft picks to the Astros as punishment for an ex-Cardinals employee hacking into the Astros’ internal scouting database.

Chris Correa the Cardinals’ former director of scouting, whom MLB placed on the permanently ineligible list Monday was sentenced to 46 months in prison last year after he pled guilty to five counts of unauthorized access of a protected computer.

During the 2013 and 2014 seasons, Correa looked at the Astros’ draft targets, player evaluations and trade discussions with other teams.

“We respect the Commissioner’s decision and appreciate that there is now a final resolution to this matter,” Cardinals chairman and CEO William O. DeWitt Jr. said in a statement. “Commissioner Manfred’s findings are fully consistent with our own investigation’s conclusion that this activity was isolated to a single individual.”

Here’s MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s decision, per Deadspin:

Whether or not it’s correlated, the Cardinals made deep playoff runs during the years of Correa’s criminal activity. And why would Correa be so interested in the Astros, a team that at the time hadn’t seen the playoffs in almost 10 years?

Well, Astros scouts know what they’re doing.

Houston has assembled a streak of talented first round draft picks in recent years, using advanced analytics led by Sig Mejdal, an Astros employee revered in a 2014 Sports Illustrated story.

But here’s where it gets interesting.

Mejdal used to work for the Cardinals, and was a major rival of Correa’s, according to Deadspin.

So, that brings us to the revenge plot narrative, which pegs Correa as an envious, competitive baseball operations employee bitter about the success of his rival. According to court documents obtained by Deadspin, Correa “must have stewed about the [Sports Illustrated] cover story overnight,” because many of his hacking attempts took place only a couple days after the SI published the story.

It’s a wild, convoluted scandal that’s been hanging over both franchises for years. Now, with MLB’s official ruling, both teams can move on. The Astros probably couldn’t be happier, with two additional draft picks and $2 million coming their way.

Depending on how those draft picks pan out, getting hacked by a rival might actually pay off.

BONUS: You can now take selfies… with your feet?

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