The Houston Astros are getting sued, and this development wasn’t hard to see this coming.
The Astros cheated baseball when they used technology to steal signs during the 2017 season. They cheated the idea of fair play and took a blow torch to the concept of a level playing field. They were concerned only with winning, and didn’t give a second thought — in their actions, surely, if not their motives — to the teams, players and fan bases that were short-changed along the way.
Of course there would be backlash. Of course an aggrieved party would respond with a challenge. Former big leaguer Mike Bolsinger is suing the Astros, and he’s representing the idea that actions have consequences. Someone needed to do it. Kudos to Bolsinger for being the one to step forward.
What the Astros did should not be part of baseball going forward, and it’s why MLB came down harshly when it levied punishments to the organization. Even though the sign-stealing scheme reportedly started back in 2016 and was front-office driven, it was the players who executed the cheating on the field.
That's why, when future punishments are handed down, players absolutely should not be given immunity. I understand why MLB took this approach for this round of sign-stealing (even though the investigation involving the Red Sox hasn’t concluded, players were reportedly given immunity, too); it was important for MLB to know all the facts and hammer the responsible parties (well, some of them) to show what would happen to people who considered similar cheating tactics in the future. Cheaters will not be tolerated.
Bolsinger is “accusing the Astros of unfair business practices, negligence and intentional interference with contractual and economic relations.” He’s seeking unspecified damages, with “the money to go to charities in Los Angeles focused on bettering kids’ lives, as well as to create a fund for retired baseball players who need financial assistance.”
So he’s not just looking for a handout, for whatever that’s worth. And whether he has a chance to actually win this suit isn’t really the important part.
Here’s the juicy possibility:
If this lawsuit actually goes forward (big if, but possible) the discovery process would be interesting. https://t.co/M9cL5jNJZg
— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) February 10, 2020
Yeah. Discovery opens up everything. If the suit gets to that point, that’s where we’d get the details not offered up by MLB, about who knew what when, and who was part of the scheme.
This is what the Astros — and, let’s be honest, MLB — want desperately to avoid. The Astros want to avoid more details being revealed, and MLB would prefer — now that the harsh punishments have been handed out — that everyone just move forward (not much of a chance of that).
And not that it really matters, but let’s look at this: Did the Astros REALLY end Bolsinger’s time in the big leagues?
I think we can guess what Josh Reddick thinks.
Not a good look for a player on a team just punished for a nefarious cheating scandal, Josh, but you do you.
The question is hard to answer, of course, because we don’t know how the Blue Jays evaluated Bolsinger internally. So let’s just look at that one game against Houston. Did that outing result in his demotion? Yeah, probably. He entered the fourth inning with two outs and a runner on first. He faced eight batters; the first seven reached safely, on four hits and three walks. The final damage could have been worse, but Alex Bregman few out deep to left-center with the bases loaded to end the inning.
“I don’t know if I’ve had a worse outing in my professional career,” Bolsinger said, as reported by USA Today. “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.”
For a guy who had already lost his opportunity to start for the Blue Jays — he had a 5.61 ERA in five May starts — and was on tenuous ground as a reliever — he had a 5.28 ERA in five July relief appearances covering 15 1/3 innings — that outing was the end of his time in the bigs.
Even though the Houston outing was bad, it wasn’t completely stunning. The Astros’ lineup was really, really impressive and had the tendency to score runs in bunches, at home and on the road, against a lot of pitchers with better resumes than Bolsinger.
Bolsinger’s track record in the bigs up to that point wasn’t great.
He played parts of four years in the majors. His best season, by far, was the 2015 campaign, when he compiled a 3.62 ERA in 21 starts for the Dodgers, earning a 1.2 bWAR and showing that he could at least compete at the big league level. But he only made six starts for Los Angeles in the 2016 season, rolling up a 6.83 ERA in those games. He was sent to the minors, then traded to Toronto at the beginning of August, after which he had a 6.04 ERA in six starts for Triple-A Buffalo.
As we noted, Bolsinger struggled in the bigs in 2017, even though he was really good in Triple-A: 1.46 ERA in April, 1.69 ERA in June, 1.93 ERA in August/September. After the season, at 29 years old, he wasn’t brought back by the Jays and couldn’t find any other MLB offers, either, so he went to Japan.
The point here isn’t to drag Bolsinger, even though it’s probably safe to say that his claim that one game at the end of a rough couple of seasons was to blame for the end of his big league career probably isn’t completely accurate.
That doesn’t make his suit irrelevant, though. The Astros cheated and they should have to face consequences, beyond just punishments handed down by MLB.