by Irvin Muchnick
Because a certain current scandal in baseball combines two entities of interest to me — the St. Louis Cardinals and the Federal Bureau of Investigation — some readers have urged me to weigh in on the news story involving the hacking of the Houston Astros’ computer databases by employees of the Cardinals’ front office.
Be sure to take all of the following in the breezy spirit intended. In 2010, after Albert Pujols and Tony La Russa joined the stupid right-wing Glenn Beck rally in Washington, I tried to swear off fanboyhood, and I failed miserably. For a St. Louisan, the birds on the bat are the birds in the blood — isn’t that how it goes? I could no more eradicate this provincial trait from my DNA than I could hate toasted ravioli or refrain from asking a fellow native I encountered where he went to high school. Or from secretly and shamefully sighing with relief when the Eric Garner cop homicide in Staten Island grabbed the news-cycle baton from the Michael Brown cop homicide in Ferguson.
(For the record, I graduated from Parkway Central High School in West County — also the alma mater of the Washington Nationals’ dominant pitcher, Max Scherzer, and of indie pro wrestler Matt Korklan, who was better known during his WWE run as Evan Bourne.)
These days, as someone who spends a lot of time immersed in depressing investigations of sexual abuse and cover-up in our national youth club swimming programs, I give myself permission to imbibe in Cardinals baseball on the Internet. This season’s bunch are especially endearing. I say so not because the team is winning — the Redbirds and their fans enjoy far more up years than they suffer down years — but because the operative word seems to be plucky, not dominant. Please don’t get me started on The Matheny Manifesto, but still.
Even so, my guess is that Hackgate will stick. Also that it should stick. To say otherwise would be to betray a hicky defensiveness. And we can’t have that.
I have little more in the way of predictions or parallels or pith. This corporate espionage scenario will likely land somewhere in between the revenge of the nerds and a more systematic and nefarious crime, and we should be prepared for the worst possible outcome. Now, is all this worse than the serial charges of gamesmanship-plus — most recently Deflategate — leveled against football’s New England Patriots? Yes. No. Hell, I don’t know. It’s certainly not as bad as the way the Cardinals launched their 21st century era of glory: on the back of juicer home run record-setter Mark McGwire.
Since I do know a thing or two about the bureaucratic crab walk of FBI investigations, let me throw a little more out there about that. The computer hacking is described as amateurish, and the feds’ crack cyberspace sleuths traced it to devices in a house shared by personnel near the Cardinals’ spring training facility in Jupiter, Florida. So what’s taking so long with arrests?
In order to answer that question, you need to understand that the FBI is, essentially, the community police of the plutocracy. I’m not accusing G-men and -women of being Mr. Magoos or Inspector Clousseaus. But I think they’re a lot more interested in pursuing easy investigations than difficult ones. They also have a fetish for dragging out the former; this has the effect of making them appear to be the latter and, thereby, puts themselves over.
The only thing that seems difficult about this one is giving Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr. and general manager John Mozeliak enough time to straighten out their own ship — a process that will probably include working with the authorities to determine exactly which mid-level stiffs get thrown under the bus.
DeWitt and Mozeliak said they were shocked, shocked when the New York Times broke the story. But if they were informed of the criminal investigation in February, then exactly which part of the story blindsided them? My conclusion is that they didn’t get out in front of the story because they couldn’t.
And now for the only real reason this subject rates any attention at all in this space: The FBI has also been investigating sex abuse in amateur sports, also with all deliberate speed. Former Congressman George Miller requested the intervention last year. A year before that, Miller requested a Government Accountability Office report on the same subject, and at last word the GAO was going to publish it before the end of June — unless, of course, they don’t.
If prosecutions of African American men in their 20s for “black-collar crime” were so gummed up, the nation’s prison guard unions would be up in arms.
I can’t end this piece of whimsy without a final sad observation. Experts in social media tell me that Hackgate might have irrevocably buried my two-year-old Twitter campaign to get Trevor Rosenthal nicknamed “The Ashkenazi Express.”