Dechiphering ‘Nerdgate,’ the St. Louis Cardinals’ childish computer game

So, while we’re waiting for a ruling on Tom Brady’s role in Deflategate, the generous summer of 2015 serves up a bonus baseball conspiracy crisis of outsized proportions.

Nerdgate.

What else are we supposed to call an investigation into computerized creeps stealing juicy megabytes of information on behalf of the St. Louis Cardinals, and choosing as the victim a Houston Astros franchise that hasn’t posed a serious threat to much of anyone in the last decade?

With the St. Louis Cardinals out of town on a road trip, Busch Stadium sits quiet Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in St. Louis. The team said Wednesday it hired a law firm several months ago to conduct an internal inquiry and to assist the FBI and Justice Department in their investigation into possible computer hacking of the Houston Astros database by members of the Cardinals organization. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

With the St. Louis Cardinals out of town on a road trip, Busch Stadium sits quiet Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in St. Louis. The team said Wednesday it hired a law firm several months ago to conduct an internal inquiry and to assist the FBI and Justice Department in their investigation into possible computer hacking of the Houston Astros database by members of the Cardinals organization. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

The FBI is taking this very seriously but at the moment I’m having a little trouble.

Hackers from North Korea and China are dangerous, digging into secrets and practices that are strictly the business of the U.S. government and American corporations.

Then there are the hackers who pry into the accounts of private citizens who mistakenly believe their data is protected by banks and credit card companies and department stores. That hits all of us where we live.

Baseball hackers, on the other hand, can only do harm by embarrassing and antagonizing a rival. Everybody scouts the same players. Everybody deals with agents who represent players on every team and use that private knowledge to full advantage. Everybody has front-office personnel who move from one organization to the next.

Snooping around the internal communications and personnel evaluations of another team isn’t sophisticated. It’s punkish. It’s a prank that you pull just because you can.

Picture adolescents of another time so bored that they call people up at random and ask them if their refrigerator is running. They had yellow fingers from stuffing cheese puffs into their mouths and stains on their shirts from laughing so hard that the soda came shooting out of their noses. These were the kids who stayed inside playing Strat-O-Matic rather than going out and actually organizing a pick-up game.

Can’t do that phone stuff anymore, of course, because of caller ID. So we’re on to computer bullying in its various forms. This Cardinals crew, possibly operating from a home in Jupiter during spring training 2014, allegedly used a new set of dirty tricks to spy on the Astros, whose general manager Jeff Luhnow previously worked in the St. Louis organization.

A Yahoo report on the FBI’s year-long dig into this molehill says the Jupiter residence was occupied by several Cardinals employees. If true, that doesn’t sound like wealthy front-office types. They’re over on the beach, not crowding into a spot near Roger Dean Stadium in order to cut costs on shared pizzas and stay up late playing video games.

Maybe I’ll be proved wrong on this over time. Maybe a Cardinals executive is involved in this, directly or otherwise. At first glance, though, it doesn’t fit the mold of an organization with a long reputation for doing things the right way.

If there’s anything really funny about this, it’s picturing Bill Belichick a little grumpier than usual today, asking himself why he didn’t think of this first.

And if there’s anything truly intriguing about it, how about the fact the Astros will be in West Palm Beach for spring training 2017, just down the road from the Cardinals in Jupiter?

That, however, is too far out in the future. Other earthshaking investigations in the sports world will long have overshadowed this one, like maybe news of a slush fund meant to win votes for an Olympics in Oklahoma City.

(Note to self: Good, that’s done. Better head to the vending machine down the hall now and buy a soft drink for the I.T. team and anyone else who has ever swooped in to perform a rescue mission on a computer problem beyond my kindergarten-level technical skills. Nobody likes being called a nerd.)