Adler: Cardinals hacking scandal stands alone in baseball history

From Lindsey Adler at Deadspin on February 1, 2017, with mention of SABR members Bill James, John Thorn, and Jacob Pomrenke:

The St. Louis Cardinals scandal—in which then-scouting director Chris Correa used a former colleague’s password to access the Houston Astros’ player database over 50 times in 16 months—is unprecedented in baseball history. This must have made Commissioner Rob Manfred’s decision on how to punish the Cardinals all the more difficult.

Ultimately, the league settled on the Cardinals sending the Astros $2 million and their top two draft picks for the 2017 draft. (Those are the 56th and 75th overall picks—the Cardinals lost their first-round pick when they signed free agent Dexter Fowler during the offseason.) It’s hard to judge the severity of the punishment. $2 million appears a little light, but it’s the maximum amount MLB can fine one of its clubs; the actual value of a draft pick, meanwhile, is almost impossible to peg, but the expected value of these two is probably $15 to $20 million. The Astros, at least, are publicly calling the punishment fine, or adequate.

“We’re pleased to have closure on this,” their general counsel told Sports Illustrated. “We’re happy to be getting past this.”

The Correa scandal is truly one of the wildest in baseball—or sports, generally—in recent memory. But baseball history is riddled with absurd scandals, many of which shaped the course of the game as we know it today.

To put the Correa scandal in context, we reached out to three top baseball historians to ask whether they could think of any even remotely similar club-on-club crimes. While clandestine attempts at sabotage and espionage are old as the game itself, we found, this one remains unique—and not just because it involves computers.

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Originally published: February 1, 2017. Last Updated: February 1, 2017.