Cheap Seats

With the hacking scandal in the rear-view mirror, it’s time for the St. Louis Cardinals to focus on the field

The infamous hacking case that hung over the St. Louis Cardinals for two years is finally over with the steepest penalty in the history of the teams tampering with each other’s business being meted out by Major League Baseball.

Still, with the Redbirds forced to hand over their second and third-round picks in the 2017 draft and to pay the Houston Astros $2 million, some professional sports pundits are crying foul.

Give me a break.

The most common suggestion is that the Cardinals strategically signed free agent Dexter Fowler, effectively dealing away their first-round pick in 2017 because of a required compensatory pick, and that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred was in cahoots with the team and told ownership what was coming their way.

How ridiculous. Are there any baseball fans with a pulse who didn’t know that the Cardinals were likely to lose draft picks to finally put the biggest scandal in team history to rest? Was there any reason why the commissioner, had he deemed it a justified move, couldn’t have taken St. Louis’ first-round pick in the 2018 draft? Absolutely not.

Some are crying that the loss of two draft picks wasn’t enough of a deterrent to prevent other teams from trying their hand at corporate espionage. But I’d say that former Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa’s term of nearly four years in federal prison ought to be enough to scare anyone considering such a move back to the straight and narrow path.

Realistically, how were the Birds supposed to know that a rogue employee, that an extensive investigation determined acted alone, was breaking the law. How could they have prevented it? The evidence is clear that this is the act of an individual, not a course of action endorsed by the Cardinals. And he got a lifetime ban from baseball to prove it.

Some have accused St. Louis owner Bill DeWitt Jr., a longtime friend of Manfred, of influencing the commissioner to take it easy on the Cardinals. But Manfred correctly (and obviously) points out that it is his job to be fair to all the teams and that he couldn’t continue in his role if some owners lost confidence in his ability to treat teams equally.

If anyone was trying to influence Manfred, it was Houston owner Jim Crane who, on the eve on the commissioner’s announcement, publicly suggested that the Astros ought to be allowed to pluck a player out of the Cardinals organization. It was that statement of expectation that made the actual deal seem a little bit light.

Could anyone possibly imagine it would be fair, in response to a case that showed no proof that the Cardinals harmed the Astros in any measurable way, if the commissioner allowed Houston to steal Alex Reyes away from St. Louis?

That wouldn’t have only been unfair to the Redbirds. It would have been a terrible blow to the fans who support St. Louis to see a player we’ve eagerly anticipated for two years stolen away by another franchise.

Correa, after the announcement of the punishment his former employer would receive, issued a statement from prison in which he reiterated his previous claim that he had proof the Astros not only hacked into the St. Louis talent evaluation database and stole intellectual property of the Cardinals – but that the commissioner’s office refused to investigate.

Although a deeper look into the other side of the story could help to pop some of the dents Correa put in the team’s reputation, I think almost all Cardinals fans have had enough of this sad tale and they’re eagerly awaiting being able to turn their attention to the action on the field as opposed to what’s going on in the commissioner’s office.

While losing a second- and third-round pick is a substantial penalty, if it was going to happen to the Birds, this is probably the best time for it.

The Cardinals have a lot of talent in the lower rungs of their farm system, they had a good draft last year and they’ve made a big splash recently on the international talent market. So, let’s put this behind us and play ball!