Phillies

MLB Notes: Former Cardinals exec sentenced to prison for hacking Astros

MLB Notes: Former Cardinals exec sentenced to prison for hacking Astros

HOUSTON — A federal judge sentenced the former scouting director of the St. Louis Cardinals to nearly four years in prison Monday for hacking the Houston Astros' player personnel database and email system in an unusual case of high-tech cheating involving two Major League Baseball clubs.

Christopher Correa had pleaded guilty in January to five counts of unauthorized access of a protected computer from 2013 to at least 2014, the same year he was promoted to director of baseball development in St. Louis. He was fired last summer and now faces 46 months behind bars and a court order to pay $279,038 in restitution. He had faced up to five years in prison on each count.

Correa read a letter in court before he was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Hughes and he said he was "overwhelmed with remorse and regret for my actions."

"I violated my values and it was wrong ... I behaved shamefully," he said. "The whole episode represents the worst thing I've done in my life by far."

Cardinals Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. had blamed the hack on "roguish behavior" by a handful of individuals. No one else was charged.

MLB could discipline the Cardinals, possibly with a fine or a loss of draft picks, but has said only that it looked forward to getting details on the case from federal authorities.

"Now that the criminal process has been completed, Commissioner (Rob) Manfred has asked the Department of Investigations to conduct a complete investigation of the facts in this matter, including requesting information from the appropriate law enforcement authorities," the league said. "The commissioner hopes that the investigation can be completed promptly to put him in a position to take appropriate action."

The data breach was first reported in June 2014 when Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow told reporters the team had been the victim of hackers who accessed servers and published online months of internal trade talks. Luhnow had previously worked for the Cardinals.

Federal prosecutors say the hacking cost the Astros about $1.7 million, taking into account how Correa used the Astros' data to draft players.

The FBI said Correa was able to gain access using a password similar to that used by a Cardinals employee who "had to turn over his Cardinals-owned laptop to Correa along with the laptop's password" when he was leaving for a job with the Astros in 2011. The employee was not identified, though Luhnow left St. Louis for Houston in December of that year to become general manager.

Prosecutors have said Correa in 2013 improperly downloaded a file of the Astros' scouting list of every eligible player for that year's draft. They say he also improperly viewed notes of trade discussions as well as a page that listed information such as potential bonus details, statistics and notes on recent performances and injuries by team prospects.

The Astros rely heavily on sabermetrics in their evaluation of players and use a database called Ground Control to house proprietary information.

Authorities say that after the Astros took security precautions involving Ground Control following a Houston Chronicle story about the database, Correa was able to still get into it. Authorities say he hacked the email system and was able to view 118 pages of confidential information, including notes of trade discussions, player evaluations and a 2014 team draft board that had not yet been completed.

Luhnow was a key figure in the Cardinals' own database, called Redbird. At least one former Cardinals employee -- Sig Mejdal, a former NASA employee and analytics expert -- had joined Luhnow in Houston.

Luhnow has not commented in detail about the case, though he's denied using any of the Cardinals' intellectual property or information from Redbird to create Houston's database.

The Cardinals are among baseball's most successful franchises on and off the field. Only the New York Yankees have more World Series titles than the 11 won by St. Louis. The Astros and Cardinals were rivals in the National League Central until Houston moved to the American League in 2013.

Minnesota Twins fire general manager Terry Ryan
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins fired general manager Terry Ryan on Monday after skidding to the worst record in the American League.

The Twins entered the day 33-58, 21 games out of first place in the AL Central. Only Atlanta had a worse record in the majors.

Firing Ryan also calls into question the future of manager Paul Molitor, who was hired to replace Ron Gardenhire before the 2015 season. Molitor helped the Twins become one of the surprise teams of season last year, having them in the playoff hunt into the final week of the season. But the Twins are on pace for 100 losses this year.

Assistant GM Rob Antony will take over on an interim basis.

Owner and CEO Jim Pohlad made the announcement hours before the Twins opened a series in Detroit. The timing was curious, given the fact that the team had just come out of the All-Star break with the front office intact, and the trade deadline is just two weeks away.

"Terry has been a gifted leader of the baseball department for over 18 seasons," Pohlad said. "It is impossible to overstate his contribution to our game, our team and the Upper Midwest baseball community. The decision to part ways with Terry was difficult, painful and not obvious."

Ryan spent two stints as general manager of the Twins, taking over in September 1994 helping the franchise emerge from a decade worth of futility to become one of the models for small-market success in the early 2000s. He helped build one of baseball's strongest farm systems and made several shrewd trades that turned the Twins into a team that won four AL Central championships in five seasons.

Ryan stepped down after the 2007 season but returned in November 2011 after hand-picked successor Bill Smith could not continue the team's success.

The Twins are in the middle of their fifth losing season in the last six years, and a 2015 season that saw them return to contention in the division proved not to be enough when the team sank to the bottom of the American League this summer.

Ryan handed out big money to pitchers Ervin Santana, Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes in an effort to address the team's biggest weakness in the starting rotation, but all have been disappointments.

The decisions to sign South Korean slugger Byung-Ho Park, hold on to veteran third baseman Trevor Plouffe this offseason and move promising youngster Miguel Sano from third base to right field all proved to be ill-fated. Sano was injured while playing in the outfield and is back at third base, Plouffe is on the disabled list and his trade value has been diminished and Park has been sent to Triple-A to try to ease his transition from Korea to the United States.

Despite the Twins' massive struggles, the midseason firing is a highly uncharacteristic move by the Pohlad family, long known in baseball circles for loyalty and continuity. Jim Pohlad has made no secret of his admiration for Ryan, saying as late as last year that the GM could hold his post for as long as he wanted.

"While disappointed we were unable to bring Minnesota a third world championship, I leave the GM post with immense pride in being part of the Twins organization for the better part of three decades," Ryan said. "I'm grateful for the leadership opportunities provided by the Pohlad family; the collaboration and talents of my colleagues in the front office; the hard work and dedication of our manager, coaches and clubhouse personnel; the commitment and professionalism of our players; the passion and attention to detail of our minor league staff and scouts; and most importantly, the incredible support of our fans. It's been an honor to be part of the Twins organization and I wish everyone nothing but the best going forward."

Antony is in his 29th season in the Twins organization and his ninth as an assistant GM.

Blue Jays give Justin Smoak $8.5M deal for 2017-18
OAKLAND, Calif. -- First baseman Justin Smoak has agreed to an $8.5 million, two-year contract with the Toronto Blue Jays covering 2017-18.

Smoak is making $3.9 million this year and was eligible to become a free after this season. The 29-year-old will earn $4,125,000 annually in 2017 and '18, and Toronto has a $6 million option for 2019 with a $250,000 buyout.

The option price would escalate to $7 million if Smoak has 950 plate appearances in 2017-18 combined, $7.5 million if he has 1,000 and $8 million if he has 1,100.

"We love Toronto, me and my family, and we wanted to stay here as long as we can," Smoak said after the agreement was announced Saturday. "So we just wanted to get something done."

Smoak is in his seventh season in the majors with his third team. He was the 11th overall selection in the first round of the 2008 draft by the Texas Rangers.

He batting .234 with nine home runs and 23 runs batted in this season. In seven major league seasons, he's had a .225 batting average with 101 home runs, 316 RBIs and a .310 on-base percentage.

Smoak, by his own admission, says he hasn't lived up to the expectations of his elite pre-draft status.

"No, not even close," Smoak said Saturday before the game against Oakland. "I know I can be a better player. It's all about staying consistent. That's what you strive for every day and that's the goal to keep working on ... to be a more consistent player."

Smoak, an everyday player with the Seattle Mariners for four seasons, has accepted being a role player with the Blue Jays.

"I know what it takes to play every day for a full season, and I also know what it takes to be a guy off the bench and be ready to help this team out," Smoak said. "I want to play every day, that's always the goal. But if that's not the case, that's not the case.

"Whatever it takes to help this team win ballgames."

 

©2016 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

Under-the-radar 1st-half trends from Phillies hitters

Under-the-radar 1st-half trends from Phillies hitters

Taking a look at some under-the-radar developments for key Phillies position players with the first half in the books.

C Jorge Alfaro, Andrew Knapp

Alfaro has swung at a higher percentage of pitches this season than any player in the majors — 61.5 percent. The only other player who's swung at more than 59 percent of the pitches he's seen is Javier Baez.

Defensively, it's been an up-and-down season for the Phillies' catchers. They've combined to allow 12 passed balls, most in the National League. And the Phils have allowed 58 stolen bases, second most in the NL.

1B Carlos Santana

Santana's plate selection has been as advertised, with him entering the All-Star break with more walks than every player in the majors except Mike Trout and Bryce Harper.

But Santana's also been helped out a bit by umpires. No player in the National League has had more pitches in the strike zone called balls than Santana (55). Some of it, obviously, has to do with his reputation. His exaggerated movements on inside pitches help, too.

2B Cesar Hernandez

Hernandez has a .380 on-base percentage out of the leadoff spot this season, tops in the National League and second in baseball behind only Mookie Betts (.452).

Hernandez hasn't been driving the ball a whole lot lately — his three-run triple Sunday was his only extra-base hit in July — but you know the singles and walks will always be there for him. Hernandez has spent just one day all season with an OBP lower than .367.

3B Maikel Franco

Do you realize that we're 95 games into the season and Franco has a higher OPS than Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Abreu, George Springer, Mike Moustakas, Santana, Trea Turner, Brian Dozier, Anthony Rizzo and Adam Jones?

SS Scott Kingery

There's a baseball cliche that when a player is in a slump, he's down 0-1 or 0-2 every time he comes to the plate.

If it seems like Kingery has spent much of the first half in a hole, it's because he has. He's gotten a first-pitch strike 66.5 percent of the time, the fifth-highest rate in the NL. 

A major reason for that is Kingery's rate of swings at pitches outside the strike zone — 39.7 percent, also fifth highest in the NL.

LF Rhys Hoskins

You hear a lot about how much a plate appearance changes when you start 1-0 as opposed to 0-1. For Hoskins this season, it's made a world of difference.

When Hoskins starts 1-0, he has a .457 on-base percentage. When he starts 0-1, he has a .292 OBP. That OBP gap after 1-0 vs. 0-1 counts is 48 points higher than the league average gap.

So next time you see Hoskins begin an AB 1-0, flip a coin. Nearly half the time, he's getting on base.

CF Odubel Herrera

If you've watched Herrera over the years, you've likely noticed that he takes forever in between pitches, even in an age when MLB wants to speed up the game by eliminating dead time.

Well, Herrera does indeed have the slowest pace of any MLB hitter, taking 29.3 seconds on average in between pitches.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is Hernandez, who rarely steps out of the box. Hernandez takes 21.0 seconds in between pitches, third fastest in the majors.

RF Nick Williams, Aaron Altherr

The interesting trend with these two is how much better Williams, a left-handed hitter, has been against left-handed pitching.

Williams has hit .265 with a .321 OBP against lefties and .243 with a .324 OBP vs. righties. For his career, he's hit .271 against each side.

Altherr, contrarily, has hit just .169 against lefties. In a larger sample, it stands to reason that Williams' numbers against same-handed pitching would come down. But to this point, the platoon aspect of the right-field tandem hasn't worked out as expected.

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Phillies enter All-Star break off 'solid' road trip ... but it could have been better

Phillies enter All-Star break off 'solid' road trip ... but it could have been better

BOX SCORE 

MIAMI – There was no music and there were no smiles as Phillies players showered, dressed and headed out of the clubhouse for the All-Star break.

They knew they let one get away.

A road trip that started with the euphoria of two straight wins in Pittsburgh ended with consecutive losses against the lowly Miami Marlins, including an ugly one Sunday afternoon in which the Phillies blew a five-run lead on their way to a 10-5 defeat (see first take).

“This was not the prettiest series by any stretch,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We'll acknowledge that.

“But it was still a solid all-around trip.”

It was. The Phillies played 11 games in 10 days and went 6-5.

But it could have been so much more than just solid considering that none of the teams the Phillies played have a winning record. It could have been so much better than just solid had the offense not been shut out twice, had it not averaged under three runs over the final 10 days, had it not bloomed briefly Sunday only to quickly wilt and not be heard from again.

On the plus side, the Phillies do go into the break leading the National League East.

But watch out in the rearview mirror. The Phils’ lead over the Atlanta Braves is just a half-game and third-place Washington is just 5 ½ back.

While Phillies players enjoy four days of rest and relaxation, the front office will be busy trying to ensure that the team stays in contention. The Phils remain hot and heavy after Manny Machado and Zach Britton. Landing those two talents from Baltimore could be a difference-maker in the division race and return the Phillies to the playoffs for the first time since 2011.

Everything was set up Sunday for the Phillies to go into the break on a high note. They led 5-0 after rallying for five runs against Miami starter Jose Urena in fourth inning. The Phils got four hits in the inning, including two for extra bases.

That was their entire offense for the day. There was no more and that was killer.

In the fifth inning, the Marlins rallied for eight runs to take the lead.

It all started with rookie Enyel De Los Santos, starting in place of Zach Eflin, who is out with a blister on his pitching hand, allowing five straight Marlins to reach base with one out. Cameron Maybin, the first batter to reach base, hit a solo homer and Brian Anderson, the fourth batter to reach, hit a three-run homer. Even after that, Kapler stuck with De Los Santos. The pitcher hit the next batter, J.T. Realmuto, and Kapler went to reliever Edubray Ramos with the score 5-4.

Did Kapler stick with De Los Santos too long?

“He's working such a low pitch count and really moving quickly through their lineup,” Kapler said. “For me, he was right where he needed to be. 

"I thought he pitched well up until the time he sort of just fell apart. It happened fast. I thought he did a good job of attacking the zone and working out of some jams early on. Overall, a solid performance by him. But it certainly didn't end the way he wanted it to end.”

Ramos and Adam Morgan both allowed two-out, two-run singles as the Marlins sent 13 men to the plate in the inning. But the Phillies could have gotten out of the inning with the lead had home plate umpire Todd Tichenor not called a ball on a full-count pitch to Martin Prado. The pitch was close, so close that it appeared to be a strike on replays. If the Ramos gets that pitch, the inning is over and the Phils are still up, 5-4.

“I thought it was a strike,” Ramos said. “It changed the inning completely. I thought I’d be out of the inning. But there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Catcher Andrew Knapp said, “I had it as a strike. He (the umpire) said it was down.”

There was another play in the inning that might have preserved the Phillies’ lead. First baseman Carlos Santana recorded a putout for the second out and started to run to the dugout as if he thought it was the third out. It was not clear whether Santana would have had a shot at an inning-ending double play had he been thinking that way, but the play did stand out for the wrong reasons.

After the game, Santana acknowledged that he forgot how many outs there were.

“That can’t happen,” he said.

But he also said he would have had no chance at a double play, and Kapler agreed.

“It’s tough,” Kapler said. “The way I saw it, it was probably a one-out play. Obviously, losing track of the outs is something that can't happen. But he's one of our most locked-in and focused players most of the time. I think he's earned a pass on this one.”

There will be no passes for the Phillies in the second half. When they return Friday, they will be in the heat of a pennant race and every phase of their game will be tested.

Rest up, boys. This thing is only just getting started.

“We're still going into the break in first place,” Kapler said. “I think that's going to feel good to our club. Our club needs a break. This is going to be a good, solid break for us.”

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