We're still waiting to hear what Rob Manfred is going to do in the wake of Chris Correa's admission that he breached the Astros's private database. And if how he handles domestic violence allegations is any barometer, we could still be waiting for a long time to come. When the news broke in June about a member of the St. Louis Cardinals front office accessing the secure data of the Houston Astros, I was adamant that Major League Baseball needed to act to punish the offending team itself for the breach. I wrote:
"On the other, far stronger and more menacing hand, Major League Baseball cannot risk allowing corporate espionage and data theft between its member clubs to go unpunished.... What we're talking about is a breach of trust between clubs. This isn't like figuring out another team's signs from your dugout. This is potentially using a telescopic lens to see the catcher's sign, and relaying the information to the hitter. It's potentially cribbing off of someone else's homework or cheating off your neighbor's test on the SATs. It's antithetical to the idea of fair play on which all sports are predicated.
The Cardinals, as an organization, may not have known what its employees were up to in that house in Jupiter. In fact, I bet they didn't. But they are responsible for the actions of those employees, especially when they act within the confines of the game, and need to be made an example of so that no one else even thinks about trying to game the system in this way."
At that point, we didn't know a lot about what had happened, who had accessed the information, and how much was stolen from the Astros. Thanks to Friday's guilty plea entered by former Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa, now we do and the answers are not good. The violator wasn't just some intern playing around and getting lucky at guessing a password. This was one of the highest ranked figures in the St. Louis front office willfully using his former boss's password to maliciously comb through the Astros information.
And what a treasure trove he uncovered! Correa had access to scouting reports, draft lists, trade negotiations and evaluations. And he accessed this data at sensitive times during the amateur draft and at the trade deadline. If the trade deadline is a game of poker with 30 players, Correa had essentially hacked the camera that shows one of his opponent's hole cards and got an unfair read of the rest of the table as well. We'll never know whether and how greatly access to this information affected Correa's performance in his job and the Cardinals' decision making.
In the end, though, that doesn't really matter as much as the appearance and the implication that the Cardinals gained an unfair advantage through corporate espionage. Major League Baseball, quite simply, cannot allow this behavior to go unpunished any more than they could have ignored the Brooklyn Dodgers breaking into the rival New York Giants' offices at the old Polo Grounds. The other 28 clubs have a vested interest in making sure that what the Cardinals did to the Astros don't happen to any of the rest of them.
It's why, still, I am waiting for Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball to show some spine and take the St. Louis franchise to task for what happened. Just like I'm still waiting on Manfred and MLB to announce punishments for Jose Reyes and Aroldis Chapman for their alleged involvement in domestic violence incidents this offseason.
In this case, fines don't do enough to convey the severity of what Correa did as a representative of the Cardinals. He accessed information related to the amateur draft, so it would be a measure of poetic justice for Manfred to strip St. Louis of some of their high draft choices, and (if possible) prevent them from benefitting from free agent compensation or participating in the competitive balance pool of picks between the first and second rounds. The Cardinals may have enjoyed a competitive advantage, and the only fair remedy is to put them at a disadvantage for a couple years going forward.
But just like I'm quickly losing hope that this Commissioner will step up and take any kind of definitive action to address domestic violence in his game, and just like he refused to mandate clubs make efforts to protect fans near the field of play, I suspect he's not going to act meaningfully here either. Whether he is feckless or simply meticulous and cautious to a fault, Rob Manfred has done nothing to inspire confidence this offseason. Primarily because, outside of burning Pete Rose down to his foundation, he's done nothing.