Houston Astros: Still lacking real Astrogate shame, apparently

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 26: Evan Gattis #11 of the Houston Astros looks on from the top step of the dugout during MLB game action against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on September 26, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 26: Evan Gattis #11 of the Houston Astros looks on from the top step of the dugout during MLB game action against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on September 26, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /

The Houston Astros have no shame when it comes to their defiance in the wake of AstroGate.

If the Houston Astros hoped the coronavirus pandemic and concurrent slowdown of baseball and much other American life would remove the Astrogate heat and taint, some associated with the team have peculiar ways of showing such hope.

When a former Astros catcher isn’t shilling for a set of glasses with nasty messages to Astrogate whistleblower Mike Fiers, attorneys representing the team in an Astrogate lawsuit are having the California judge assigned to the case removed for “prejudice.”

The former catcher is Evan Gattis. The restaurant is known as the Flying Saucer. They were selling drinking glasses with Fiers’ image and the message, “Snitches Get Stitches” beneath it. Gattis probably considers himself lucky to get the last one before the joint sold out.

You thought other Astros had trouble owning up to and feeling even the least bit contrite about their Astro Intelligence Agency electronic sign-stealing cheating in 2017-18?

Say what you will about Gattis, who retired last fall after not appearing anywhere as a free agent, but don’t accuse him of lacking brass cojones. Which is what it takes to snark on behalf of threatening messages to whistleblowers when you just so happen to be one of the Astro batters captured at the plate taking illegally stolen signs.

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Specifically, it’s Gattis at the plate in the notorious video in which Chicago White Sox pitcher Danny Farquhar, pitching to Gattis in 2017, caught onto the Astros’ bang-the-can-slowly transmission of electronically stolen signs and finally called his catcher to the mound to switch up the signs.

Gattis and only too many in Astroworld still forget Fiers addressed it the old-fashioned way at first and for long enough. He kept what he knew to his clubhouses to follow, advising his new teammates first in Detroit and then in Oakland to beware of the Astros’ extralegal espionage.

Only after he and other players couldn’t convince assorted writers to run with it without anyone going on the public record, and then after his own Athletics complained formally to the commissioner’s office to no avail, did Fiers finally get fed up enough to blow the Astrogate whistle on the record to The Athletic‘s Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich last November.

Houston restaurants selling or distributing glasses with Fiers’s face and threatening messages beneath it is a bad enough look. A former Astro who was there to benefit from the AIA bragging about landing such a glass and thus about Astrogate itself is a little worse.

Gattis knows it. He tried to walk the brag back as swiftly as he could. “For the record, I have zero bad feelings towards Fiers,” he tweeted Saturday morning. “We have actually texted and I hoped he didn’t get too much hate/ (actual scary hate mail, threats, etc.) he was our teammate. I just thought the glass was funny.”

It was about as funny as a smoke shop in a cancer ward.

Likewise, Astros team attorneys filing to remove Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Malcolm Mackey from hearing the Astrogate lawsuit filed by former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Mike Bolsinger, saying the espionage helped end what was left of his major league career in a particularly bristling 2017 blowout. Even if Bolsinger’s attorney Ben Meiselas found a way to put the Astros in their place over it.

“I have no clue why the Astros feel that way about the particular judge,” Meiselas said in an e-mail to The Athletic, “but the irony is not lost on me that the team who broke every rule and cheated to win a World Series is now claiming a randomly assigned judge would not be fair to them.”

Then he sent The Athletic a followup e-mail. “Given the court closures arising from the coronavirus pandemic,” said Meiselas there, “it is entirely unclear when the matter will be reassigned to a new judge which is usually a fairly quick process. We are all in uncharted territory here, including the legal system, which has come to a grinding halt, and the practical implication of disqualifying this judge is going to be more delay.”

Athletic writer Daniel Kaplan said Saturday morning that the Astros’ Los Angeles-based attorneys in the case didn’t respond to requests for comment but did send Meiselas’s firm a copy of the planned filing, which says in part, “The judicial officer named above…is prejudiced against the party or his or her attorney…so that the declarant cannot, or believes that he or she cannot, have a fair and impartial trial or hearing before the judicial officer.”

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To which Kaplan noted that filing offered no evidence to support or reasoning behind the prejudice claim, adding parenthetically that California law requires neither. Kaplan also noted the filing wasn’t filed formally since the court’s been closed through June 22 regarding in-person civil issues.

“That may mean as a practical matter, there is no clerk to input the filing and then re-assign the case to a new judge,” Kaplan added. Amazing how that works out, no?

Bolsinger filed suit in February. He last pitched for the Blue Jays on August 4, 2017, hoping he’d do well enough to continue remaking himself as a useful relief pitcher following four years bouncing between the Show and the minors. The AIA banged his hope to pieces that day.

He was brought in in the bottom of the fourth, with the Astros leading 3-2 to start the inning but up 6-2 by the time he came in with two out, Josh Reddick on first, and Yuli Gurriel coming to the plate. Gurriel walked on five pitches before Marwin Gonzalez hit a three-run homer on 2-0. Carlos Beltran then hit a first-pitch line double, Brian McCann drew a full-count walk, Tyler White sent Beltran home with a ground single, and Jake Marisnick hit a 2-1 pitch for an RBI single.

Bolsinger then walked Derek Fisher on 3-1 before ending the inning and his major league career by retiring Alex Bregman for the side on a first-pitch fly out to center. He eventually told USA Today columnist Nancy Armour, “I remember saying, ‘It was like they knew what I was throwing. They’re laying off pitches they weren’t laying off before. It’s like they knew what was coming.’ That was the thought in my head. I felt like I didn’t have a chance.”

Turned out that he didn’t. Bolsinger threw 29 pitches in that fatal inning and the Astro hitters got twelve bangs on the can sending them stolen signs, the most such bangs while they faced any Jays pitchers that day. He had about as much chance to survive as a killifish against a barracuda.

Bolsinger’s Astrogate suit seeks damages for himself and an order that the Astros should pay the roughly $31 million they earned in bonuses off their 2017 World Series win to various charities. “I was an older guy,” he told Armour. “They had younger guys to call up. Let’s say that (game) doesn’t happen . . . I probably don’t get sent down. But at that point, they probably lost faith in me and were over it.”

The Blue Jays sent him down to Triple-A after that game. And if you’re going to say that Bolsinger wasn’t that great a pitcher in the first place, it’s only fair to add that if a man is on the precipice of career over he’s entitled to know at a minimum that he got murdered fair and square.

Fiers would agree with him. When he blew the whistle in the first place, among his remarks were, “I just want the game to be cleaned up a little bit because there are guys who are losing their jobs because they’re going (against the Astros) not knowing.”

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To Gattis’s original mirth over the “Snitches Get Stitches” cup came at least one tweet with a telling response: “Cheaters get heaters.” Between things like that and the Astros’ attorneys making them further resemble unapologetic cheaters, not even the coronavirus can stop people from continuing to ask whether shame and remorse really weren’t programmed into their software.