Chris Correa was a computer whiz who loved sports and worked in the scouting department of the St. Louis Cardinals. His skills and judgment led him to be promoted, and he became the Cardinals’ scouting director in charge of the amateur draft.
In 2011, two of Correa’s colleagues, who were higher up in the Cardinal’s management, left the team to take top jobs with a rival team – the Houston Astros. Jeff Luhnow became the Astros’ general manager and Sig Mejdal took the job of director of decisions sciences. Correa now says that he was worried that these men might have taken important information, including data and algorithms that the Cardinals had spent a lot of time and money to develop, to the Astros. And he thought they might be using the information against the Cardinals.
One day, Correa guessed Mejdal’s password and used it to hack into the Astros’ webmail system. He accessed the Astros’ webmail at least 48 times (sometimes for as long as two hours at a time) over the next few years. He stole information, such as the Astros’ scouting reports, draft rankings, and trade discussions. Correa also took steps to cover up his actions. But eventually, he was discovered. In 2014, it appears that Correa leaked internal Astros’ trade talk notes to the prominent sports blog Deadspin, which caused the Astros to realize that their system had been compromised.
The FBI was called in. After some investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice charged Correa with five violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Correa pled guilty in early 2016 and was sentenced to 46 months in prison. He was ordered to pay the Astros $279,038 in restitution. Later, the Major League Baseball (MLB) Commissioner, Rob Manfred, imposed a lifetime ban on Correa from working in MLB. Manfred also fined the Cardinals $2 million, although there is no solid evidence that anyone other than Correa was involved in the hacking.
At his sentencing, Correa signed a document admitting that he had caused $1.7 million worth of losses to the Astros. However, whatever damage Correa did failed to prevent the Astros from being one of MLB’s best teams from (at least) 2016 to 2022. The Astros won the World Series in 2017 and returned to the Series, but lost, in 2019 and 2021.
When Correa was interviewed in prison, he could not remember where he had been (at home? in his Cardinals’ office?) when he had first hacked into the Astros’ internal database. And when interviewed in prison by sportswriter Ben Reiter, Correa later tried to reconstruct his crime, asking: “Why am I here?”