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On the Astros: MLB punishment up next for Cardinals?

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On Monday, former Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa was sentenced to just under four years in prison for hacking the Astros internal databases. What will MLB do about it?

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

It's on you, Rob Manfred.

A federal court spoke on Monday, sentencing former St. Louis Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa to 46 months in prison for his illegal intrusion into the Astros Ground Control database. For those unfamiliar with the case (since it has disappeared from the public discourse since it happened), Correa used passwords of former Cardinals employees to access Houston's proprietary data.

This was the intrusion that led to all those trade notes leaking in 2014. It was the intrusion that led to Jeff Luhnow getting mocked for his high prices on Bud Norris and Lucas Harrell. It made the Astros look inept and tied into a series of public flubs for the rebuilding organization.

Correa justified it in January by saying he thought the Astros took information from the Cardinals and built it into their new database. Yet, U.S. District judge Lynn Hughes made clear this did not warrant his illegal actions.

"There was discussion about what a bunch of awful people the Astros are, and all that well could be true," Hughes said. "But you're back to middle school when the teacher said, 'Did you throw that eraser?' and you said, 'Bobby did, too.'

Hughes had more harsh words for Correa, which is unsurprising. He is a bit of a character who also mediated in the Astros contentious negotiations with Comcast when the two sides were mired in TV woes.

The only new information so far, though, was Correa's sentence, which was slightly longer than expected according to David Barron's article in the Houston Chronicle. Yet, we do have more information.

Barron mentioned that in the sentencing hearing, it was announced that Correa intruded into the Astros system 60 times over the course of 35 days from March 2013 through June 2014. The St. Louis Times-Dispatch adds that Correa accessed "scouting reports, amateur player evaluations, notes on trade discussions and proposed bonuses for draft picks."

Doesn't that sound serious? In particular, the proposed draft bonuses could have had pretty far-reaching consequences in June 2014. That was just before Correa was named scouting director, but he was still playing a role in that front office. If his information helped the Cardinals negotiate with draft picks? If it helped them know how much to offer to beat the Astros on a kid getting drafted down the ticket? That's serious stuff.

Even now, we don't know how much damage Correa caused. We know what he accessed. We know how often he accessed it. Both articles put the value of the information at $1.7 million.

Now it's on baseball's commissioner to dole out punishment to the Cardinals.

Don't expect the Astros to get that $1.7 million. MLB won't be beholden to that figure, but it does neatly sum up how the Astros were adversely affected by a rival team's employee and that said team gained a competitive advantage.

If that doesn't warrant action by the commissioner's office, I don't know what does.

What could Manfred do to the Cardinals? There aren't really provisions for baseball to discipline teams in set ways, but I imagine it'll involve the Cardinals losing something (money, draft picks) without the Astros gaining anything. I doubt Manfred tries to the event the scales here, but now that the legal case has been wrapped up, I do expect punishment to be forthcoming.

If he doesn't act, Manfred will set a pretty dangerous precedent. If the Cardinals can claim one rogue employee did this damage and the organization didn't have a part in it, what's to stop the Dodgers from hiring interns to break into the Giants computers? If they're caught, the Dodgers could just deny everything, say the intern was operating on their own.

This may be the first litigated case of cyber crime in baseball's history, but it will not be the last. MLB needs to make a statement by punishing the Cardinals and it needs to do so soon.