Houston Astros: Move ex-pitcher’s Astrogate suit to Texas in “fairness”

DETROIT, MI - JULY 15: Mike Bolsinger #49 of the Toronto Blue Jays is pulled from the game by manager John Gibbons #5 of the Toronto Blue Jays during the sixth inning at Comerica Park on July 15, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. The Tigers defeated the Blue Jays 11-1. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - JULY 15: Mike Bolsinger #49 of the Toronto Blue Jays is pulled from the game by manager John Gibbons #5 of the Toronto Blue Jays during the sixth inning at Comerica Park on July 15, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. The Tigers defeated the Blue Jays 11-1. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images) /

The Houston Astros’ attempt to move Mike Bolsinger’s lawsuit to Texas for “fairness” is completely laughable.

Whatever you do or don’t think of former pitcher Mike Bolsinger‘s lawsuit to hold the Houston Astros accountable for their 2017-18 extralegal electronic sign-stealing espionage, his suit is the gift that just keeps on giving. What it’s giving is more evidence that the Astros almost couldn’t care less how Astrogate continues making them appear.

Bad enough that California trial law allows a civil respondent to ask for a change of judges almost without cause, as the Astros did last week in the Bolsinger suit. Now the Astros want the suit to be thrown out entirely or moved to a Texas court.

The Astros’ legal team claimed that since-replaced, randomly-chosen Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Malcolm Mackey couldn’t possibly preside over a fair hearing, perhaps for the “obvious” reason, of course. (Judge David Cowan has replaced Mackey.) So they’re claiming now that if the suit absolutely must go forward, they’ll get a far more fair hearing in Texas.

Texas. Where, among other things, drinking cups with Astrogate whistleblower Mike Fiers‘ face on them, above the phrase “Snitches Get Stitches,” sell out. Where the buyers include a former Astros catcher who couldn’t wait to walk it back, after his original bragging joy over obtaining the last one at one Houston restaurant gave him a rather less than exemplary look.

Where you can find one group of fans thinking the Astros were given a bum rap for every group thinking the Astros didn’t get punished enough. If you thought Los Angeles wasn’t exactly the most accommodating place for a fair Astrogate lawsuit hearing, it probably has as much shot at a fair hearing in Texas as a sloth racing Secretariat.

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“The Astros do not address what they call the ‘many substantive defects’ in Bolsinger’s case,” writes Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times about the newest Astro filing. “Rather, they argue that a California court is not the proper forum for Bolsinger, ‘a Texas resident who claims to have suffered injury in Texas because of allegedly improper conduct that occurred in Texas at the hand of fellow Texans’.”

Allegedly improper conduct? When Bolsinger was still clinging for dear life as a Toronto Blue Jays pitcher in 2017, hoping to re-affirm himself as a useful major league relief pitcher, he was brought into an August 4 game in Minute Maid Park with two outs and a man on but the Jays in the hole 7-2 when he took the mound. With no clue he was walking into an Astro Intelligence Agency  ambush.

It was walk, three-run homer, double to right, walk, back-to-back RBI singles, and a bases-loading walk, before Bolsinger finally escaped with a fly out to center field. He threw 29 pitches and twelve got bangs on the can transmitting electronically stolen pitch signs to the hitters he faced. He also got sent back to Triple-A after the game, never to be seen in the Show again.

All game long Astro hitters got more bangs on the can than in any other game that season. Against Bolsinger they got the most for any Jays relief pitcher they faced during the game.

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When Bolsinger sued in Los Angeles—he was a Dodger himself in 2015-16—the suit gave a number of reasons for doing it there, including the Dodgers’ 2017 World Series loss to the now-tainted Astros. His suit demanded unspecified damages for himself but $31 million to be paid by the Astros to Los Angeles-area charities as restitution for a possibly stolen World Series triumph.

“The Astros’ attorneys dismissed that statement as ‘pandering’,” Shaikin writes, “and said Bolsinger had no grounds to argue that the Dodgers were deprived of anything in 2017 since he did not play for the Dodgers in 2017.”

The stros also want the court to toss a summons Bolsinger’s legal team submitted to compel Astros owner Jim Crane to show up and be deposed, Shaikin noted. Crane’s reply was to cite commissioner Rob Manfred’s Astrogate report, which he said: “explicitly exonerated me and stated that I was unaware of and had no involvement in any rules violations by the Astros.”

Bolsinger doesn’t buy that anymore now than when he wrote about the wherefores behind his lawsuit in a Washington Post essay in February. “The team hasn’t adequately dealt with its cheating during the 2017 season when Houston won the World Series,” Bolsinger wrote, citing Crane’s and his team’s original non-apologetic apology, “and just announcing that you’re moving forward doesn’t mean you can leave behind the damage you’ve done.”

He tried to make a go of it in Japanese baseball, not wanting his career to be defined in the long run by that fatal August 2017 game. After Fiers blew the Astrogate whistle, Bolsinger began re-thinking things. Hard. “Until news about the cheating surfaced, I had accepted that I just got crushed by the Astros,” he wrote. “But was it more than that?”

"Journalists and concerned fans began studying video from 2017. They figured out the Astros had cheated more often on Aug. 4 than in any other game that season.The news was difficult to take. I was shocked — and angry. The Astros had robbed me of the opportunity to determine my own future on the mound. If I failed at my craft because I wasn’t good enough, that would be on me. I could live with that. But thinking about the cheating and the toll it ultimately took on my family — that was something I couldn’t tolerate."

The reverse of that outcome, of course, is why on earth the Astros thought they needed extracurricular (and extra-legal) espionage to help them against a pitcher who was a journeyman at best. It was like swinging trees against the 1962 Mets.

Bolsinger actually looked like a promising pitcher as a Dodger, including a 2.83 ERA through his first sixteen starts in 2015, until he was waylaid by an injury for most of 2016. Traded to the Jays after that season, Bolsinger “embraced the label of journeyman” and actually seemed to find new bearings in his first few relief gigs for the 2017 Jays. Until August 4.

“​For weeks after the commissioner’s report, the Astros were unrepentant . . . My opinion is that cheating brought the Astros lavish rewards and that real accountability is needed,” Bolsinger went on to write. “I want my lawsuit to lead to positive change . . . How​ the game responds to this scandal will define ​its ​credibility and ​its ​existence for years to come.”

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How the Astros have responded to Astrogate so far has defined their credibility only too vividly. It’s not a happy definition for even the most recalcitrant Astro fans, in Texas and elsewhere. Whatever its final outcome, even if it is thrown out ultimately, Bolsinger’s suit shows the Astros almost determined to look worse before they can begin looking better.