Monday, January 11, 2016

A serious test for the commissioner

Rob Manfred has an interesting political dilemma ahead of him.

Late last week, Chris Correa, former scouting director of the St. Louis Cardinals, pleaded guilty in federal court to repeatedly hacking into the Houston Astros' central data base. Among the information he downloaded: scouting reports and priority lists of potential draftees during the 2013 draft and data on trade possibilities as the midseason trade deadline approached.

Correa has been fired by the Cardinals, but the computer break-ins were estimated by prosecutors to have cost the Astros about $1.7 million and gave the Cardinals a competitive advantage during the draft.

And now Manfred has to decide how to punish the Cardinals. Even if Correa's supervisors didn't know what he was doing, the team still benefited.

Manfred is doubtless fine the Cardinals the maximum $2 million, but while that's a lot of money to me or you it's an amount teams frequently write off when they discard a player. To send a serious message to everybody else about such an serious breach of ethics, he's got to strip the Cardinals of serious draft picks.

And what makes this an intriguing political dilemma is that Bill DeWitt, the lead owner of the Cardinals, was one of Manfred's biggest champions in his selection as Bud Selig's successor. Historically, commissioners who are attentive to the owners who backed them last in the office; commissioners who make a point of demonstrating their independence lose their jobs fairly rapidly.

Manfred can't afford to alienate DeWitt. He also can't afford to let DeWitt's team off lightly.

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