ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. took his turn in front of the cameras and recorders Sunday, speaking for just shy of 30 minutes in the downtown St. Louis Hyatt Regency meeting room during day two of the Winter Warm-Up.
Inevitably, questions turned to former Director of Player Development Chris Correa’s guilty plea in federal court just days prior. Correa pleaded guilty to five counts of unauthorized access of a protected computer, charges connected to the hacking of the Houston Astros from 2013-2014.
Over that period, he reportedly accessed the Houston database and obtained information on player analysis, draft evaluation and high-level trade talks, as well as information on Cardinal prospects. The Cardinals became aware of a federal investigation in early spring of last year, and fired Correa in early July, just weeks after he oversaw his first draft as the organization’s scouting director.
With the case awaiting sentencing, speculation has turned toward Major League Baseball and what potential punishment the league could inflict on the club. This is, after all, a federal crime committed by a member of one organization on another. Forfeited draft picks, fines and postseason bans have all been suggested by media outlets, and many want punishment fast.
However DeWitt says until the case is completely closed, no action is expected. Because of that, the club will just have to move forward and hope for the best.
“You just take it as it comes. Nothing's going to happen real soon, I don't think, because it's going to be a while before the sentencing occurs. Almost three months from now. I don't know how all that works but MLB has said until they get all the information from the U.S. attorney's office they're really not in a position to make any decision on what the outcome of that will be. I think we'll just wait and see and deal with it as it develops,” he said.
The top Cardinal brass has remained confident no other members of the organization were involved in the scandal. Even as the details of former employee Correa’s plea came out and the media responded with shock, the franchise asserts this was the action of a “rogue element,” and not reflective of the organization as a whole.
“We've got several hundred employees and to have, I think, a rogue element do something that didn't reflect on the culture of our organization and the type of people we bring in here, that activity was just an outlier of what happened here,” DeWitt said. “It's disappointing and it's unfortunate but it is what it is. Whatever the commissioner comes up with he will, and we'll just move forward.”
The information in the plea paints an alarming picture, with Correa accessing Houston’s proprietary information immediately before the trade deadline, and before and during the draft. It has all the trappings of high-level corporate espionage, but DeWitt doesn’t believe Correa’s actions are a harbinger of the MLB’s descent into criminality.
“I think you're talking about a very, very unusual situation. Certainly shocked us and I think shocked everybody in the game,” he said. “Look, it's a very competitive business, we all want to beat the other team. Everybody lives within the rules and tries to figure out what's going to give them the advantage, but that sort of activity is just not at all in the culture Major League Baseball. I think this is a one-off situation, the commissioner will deal with it and we'll see how it plays out.”