Major League Baseball considers action against the Cardinals over database hack

Published 28 July 2016 By: Joseph M. Hanna


On Monday, July 20, 2016, a Texas federal judge sentenced the former St. Louis Cardinals director of baseball development, Christopher Correa, to 46 months in prison for hacking1 into the Houston Astros’ player personnel database. The move has been considered a form of espionage, noting the unusual nature of two Major League Baseball (MLB) clubs being involved in high-tech cheating.2

In January 2016, Correa plead guilty to five counts of unauthorized access of a protected computer from 2013 to 2014. Correa was fired, forced to pay restitution, and faced up to five years in prison per count. Correa has expressed his remorse, while Cardinals chairman, Bill DeWitt Jr., suggested that this is not indicative3 of the entire organization, rather a “roguish behavior” carried out by a small group of individuals.

Although the stadium lights have been shut off on the criminal proceedings, the MLB is next up to bat4 against the Cardinals. The MLB team faces the possibility of fines or a loss of draft picks as a result of the hack. According to estimates from Federal prosecutors, the data breach cost the Astros $1.7 million, taking into consideration the Astros data was used to draft players.

The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball will likely complete its own investigation. The MLB commissioner has broad power to investigate the security breach and take punitive actions against the league’s clubs, owners, employees or players. Previously, the MLB Commissioner, Rob Manfred, suggested it was likely the league would move forward with sanctions after the completion of the FBI investigation.

Whether or not the league will be able to enact sanctions against the Cardinals organization is unknown. The fact that Correa likely acted on his own strongly suggests that harsh sanctions5 will not be enacted against the team. Undeniably, the stolen information may have led the team to pursue different draft picks, thus acting to the detriment of other MLB teams.

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Joseph M. Hanna

Joseph M. Hanna

Joseph Hanna is a partner of Goldberg Segalla and concentrates his practice in commercial litigation with a focus on sports and entertainment law and retail, hospitality, and development litigation. Joe represents sports franchises, professional athletes, and movie studios with various issues related to licensing, contracts, and day-to-day management. He serves as Chair of Goldberg Segalla’s Sports and Entertainment Law Practice Group and editor of the firm’s Sports and Entertainment Law Insider blog. In addition, Joe is the Chair of Goldberg Segalla's Diversity Task Force. He possesses an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell.
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