|David Bowie as Major Tom in the Space Oddityvideo, part of the 1969 promotional film Love You Till Tuesday|
About five years ago Jeff Luhnow had Chris Correa and Sig Mejdal
working for him in the St. Louis Cardinals analytics group. They were using a proprietary database system nicknamed Red Bird Dog.
Other teams had such systems:
Cleveland Indians: DiamondView
Boston Red Sox: Carmine.
Luhnow interviewed with the Houston Astros and described in detail his plan for improving the Astros. At the time Houston was using "a popular system sold by Bloomberg Sports" (Houston Chronicle, 3/10/2014) . Luhnow was hired by Houston, presumably for more money and power, along with Mejdal and another guy. Luhnow, apparently, intended to create an Astros version of Red Bird Dog. The name selected: Ground Control. It's a play on words for the NASA space program, which also caused the franchise to change its name from the Colt 45s to the Astros.
Luhnow must have promised and hoped to die that he would not take any proprietary information from St. Louis to Houston. Luhnow did seem intent on replicating Red Bird Dog. He must have intended his Houston version, Ground Control, to be bigger and better. Just how much Red Bird Dog is in Ground Control is an issue that has not been addressed.
When they switched from St. Louis to Houston, Chris Correa had Luhnow, Mejdal, and the other guy surrender their Cardinal corporate laptop computers, along with the Cardinal ID and password each used. Correa subsequently used that information to guess the very similar ID and password they used in Houston and logged in as them. Correa asserts that he wanted to see if they had taken proprietary St. Louis information. This seems plausible. Also plausible is that Correa went way beyond that.
Eventually this came to light and the Major Baseball League tried to handle it but the U.S. Attorney's office in Houston became involved. In January 2016 Chris Correa took a deal and was sentenced to four years in federal prison. FOUR YEARS.
Some had made the analogy of a coach switching teams and using his old signs with his new team. Baseball protocol would blame the new team. But that same protocol holds the use of binoculars by the 1951 New York Giants to steal catcher's signs during the second half of the season, including the three extra games against the Brooklyn Dodgers, to be unsportsmanlike and unacceptable. A minority view is that the Dodgers should have been more careful. The Giants made up 13 games and won the pennant on the legendary bottom of the 9th inning home run by Bobby Thomson, who in later years claimed, unconvincingly, that he could not recall if he had the sign for the biggest event in his life.
People's views, recollections, perspectives can vary and change. Yesterday Commissioner Rob Manfred, the A-Rod Slayer, weighed in. Manfred put Chris Correa on the permanently ineligible list, along with Reds gambling manager Pete Rose and the very late Joe Jackson of the 1919 Chicago Black Sox gambling scandal.
Manfred ordered the Cardinals to pay the maximum allowed to the Astros as reparation: $2 million. Manfred also ordered the Cardinals to surrender to the Astros the Cardinals top two picks in the 2017 amateur player draft; neither is a number one, so they work out to be numbers 56 and 75 overall.
Not unlike the PED punishments, no supervisors were punished, just the individual caught. The commissioner at the time was Allen Huber "Bud" Selig, who was recently elected to the Hall of Fame. Once inducted this summer Selig will join former managers Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre. LaRussa managed the Cardinals 1996-2011, winning the World Series in 2006 and 2011. LaRussa had previously managed the Oakland As, winning the World Series in 1989. LaRussa succeeded Torre as Cardinal manager. Torre managed the Yankees 1996-2007, winning the World Series in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000.
LaRussa was the immediate supervisor of home run record setter Mark McGwire in both Oakland and St, Louis. McGwire admitted in January 2010 that he used PED. Since then his percent of Hall of Fame votes has decreased each year.
Torre managed Yankees Jason Giambi, Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield, all of whom have been implicated in PED use.
So what the heck is going on here? The punishment is for the Cardinals organization but no individuals, other than Correa who was caught red handed, have been held accountable. The two draft picks being surrendered to the Astros are valued at about $1.8 million. Adding the reparation of $2 million brings the monetary penalty to the Cardinals to $3.8 million. About what they'd pay to a veteran utility player.
"Ground Control to Major Tom".