Ex-MLB Pitcher files lawsuit against Astros over Sign-Stealing Scandal

Spring is here and baseball is finally returning from what has been a tedious offseason for just about everyone involved. Of course, at the heart of the frustration lies the now-infamous sign-stealing scandal that undoubtedly gave the Houston Astros a disproportionate competitive advantage en route to their 2017 World Series championship. However, while fans, players and front office execs alike are all justifiably upset with the Astros’ cheating, one former pitcher has particularly good reason to not only be frustrated with the ex-champions, but also take them to court.

On August 4th, 2017, Mike Bolsinger of the Toronto Blue Jays entered the game in the 4th inning to relieve as they were trailing the Astros 7-2. With a runner on and two outs, Bolsinger’s outcomes are as follows: walk, three-run home run, double, walk, single, walk, warning-track fly out. As a result of the horrendous outing, his ERA ballooned from 5.49 to 6.31 (league average was 4.36 that year) while his WHIP went from 1.66 to 1.81 (avg. was 1.33) and the Blue Jays promptly designated him for assignment after what would prove to be his final game in the big leagues since.

Given his stats —and if we’re being honest the eye-test too— it is clear Bolsinger certainly was never a Cy Young candidate by any means, yet the degree to which he gets teed-off seems oddly high. You can watch the entire appearance here, but the MLB’s investigation confirms part of what we see unfold in the clip: the Houston batters knew what pitches would be delivered before they were even thrown and allegedly used the trash-can-banging system on 12 of the 29 pitches Bolsinger threw. So, the question becomes, “If the Astros had not stolen signs, would the results of Bolsinger’s appearance be different in a way that would have ‘saved’ his job?”

The official way in which this civil suit is being framed is whether or not the Astros  engaged in unfair business practices and negligence via a “duplicitous and tortious scheme of sign-stealing.” Though initially filed toward the Astros organization on February 10th, the original grievance contained Doe defendants, essentially defendants to-be-named later, which reportedly likely include Astros Owner Jim Crane.

The significance of his involvement in this lawsuit stems from Commissioner Rob Manfred’s summary of Crane’s role in the scandal. Manfred wrote, “Jim Crane was unaware of any of the violations of MLB rules by his club,” plainly exonerating him. However, after the year-long suspensions and subsequent firings of general manager Jeff Lunhow and manager A.J. Hinch, Crane is the last man standing among a splintered front office and has been able to keep himself isolated from any sanctions. While it remains to be seen how directly the lawsuit aims to implicate Crane, it is possible that more details about his understanding —or lack thereof— of the cheating are made public which would inevitably drag out the controversy even further.

Odds are that the lawsuit will never reach trial, however if it did how would it play out? The only thing close to a baseball crime of this magnitude traces back to 1919 when eight members of the Chicago White Sox were accused of intentionally losing the World Series in exchange for a share of the profits from a gambling syndicate. So, while there isn’t a true precedent, a couple factors will outline the way the case proceeds.

First, grievances dealing with a player’s salary are covered by a labor law preemption, meaning that the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the MLB and MLBPA will govern any bargain between the feuding parties. To that end, the Astros can appeal the court to dismiss the lawsuit so that Bolsinger must arbitrate. There are several considerations that follow and make this aspect of the proceeding much more complex, however SportsIllustrated has covered these nuances in depth here for those who want to go a step further.

More interesting, however, is the question of whether or not the “Astros game” truly caused the derailing of Bolsinger’s career. As his aforementioned stats show, 2017 was already shaping up to be a make-or-break season for the 6’1″ righty as he was carrying a mediocre 6.83 ERA from the year prior into his first (and only) season with the Blue Jays. Yet, despite forfeiting 21 earned runs in just 27.2 innings in that 2016 season, 2015 provided a lot of hope for Bolsinger’s future in the league when he started 21 games, tossing 109 innings to the tune of a cool 3.62 ERA.

So, did Bolsinger, a 10th-round pick who never cracked any top-prospect lists, truly have a potential future that was unfairly derailed by Houston’s cheating? Or was his 2015 season just a fluke and his departure from the big leagues always inevitable? The most challenging aspect of all of this is that this outing against the Astros proved to be his final appearance in the MLB, so it is easy to hypothesize the “what ifs” that could have changed the course of history. Yet, I’m inclined to think that Bolsinger’s career would have been effectively over regardless of how bad a bashing the Astros gave him on that August 4th game.

Between his uninspiring rise from prospect obscurity to what seemed to be a failed starter-turned-reliever experiment, Bolsinger had the profile of someone destined to be in the MLB just for a cup of coffee while teams try to figure out if he has the “it” needed to stay. Toronto took a flier on him and despite returning to Triple A and posting an electric 1.70 ERA over 47.2 innings, its clear that the Blue Jays and the rest of the league were ready to move on from him.

These considerations are why this lawsuit figures to be so complex and monumental. Bolsinger’s attorney, Ben Meiselas of LA-based Geragos & Geragos, has a steep case to make, but successfully represented Colin Kaepernick in his collusion grievance against the NFL. The ramifications of any settlement that may be reached are far-reaching traveling all the way up to the office of the Astros owner and could prompt more players to follow suit (no pun intended). In any case, the dark cloud of Houston’s sign stealing scandal that looms over baseball won’t be going away any time soon.

Does David Ortiz Deserve a Contract Extension?


There has been much news lately of David Ortiz wanting an extension to ensure at least another year in Boston. Ortiz, who is in the second year of a 2 year $26 million contract, has been with the Red Sox since 2003 and it is tough to picture him wearing anything besides a Red Sox uniform. A contract dispute with the Red Sox, such as this one, is not new to Ortiz as he went through many difficulties getting a two year extension from very reluctant management that was much more comfortable only giving him one year. Ortiz has been very frustrated, not as much with the Red Sox as much as he has been with the media saying this earlier in February, “I don’t even know why they’re bitching about me talking about contracts, guys putting up my numbers, they’re making $25, $30 million. I’m not asking for that. I’m asking for half of it. And they’re still bitching about it? (Expletive) them. I’m tired of hearing them talk (expletive) about me when I talk about my contract. Hey, every time I talk about my contract, I earn it, (expletive). So don’t be giving me that (expletive). The Red Sox have come out and said that they are interested in giving Ortiz an extension the only question is who has the leverage in the negotiations.

The argument to be made here for the Red Sox is Ortiz is a designated hitter; he can play first base, but that benefits no one since he defense is subpar and there is no need to add risk of an injury to an aging body. That wipes out the national league leaving fourteen potential suitors, outside of the Red Sox. Also, Ortiz would only be willing to play for a winning team and compete for another World Series ring, so the Astros, White Sox and Twins are unlikely destinations. As Ortiz stated, he is not looking for $25, $30 million, he wants half of that, still teams that are cash-strapped can’t afford to go out and spend on high profile free agents, so low-budget teams, such as the Athletics, Rays and even Mariners would not be able to sign Ortiz. This leaves about eight teams to compete against the Red Sox, that is if they are all interested. Once, you start breaking it down team by team, the roster situations would not allow room for some like Ortiz, who is locked down to the DH spot, unless a corresponding move would be made. For example, Texas already have Mitch Moreland as their DH, who is nothing close to the same player as Ortiz, but comes at a much cheaper price and the Rangers offense is good enough to cover that weakness. Detroit is moving Miguel Cabrera to first base and has Victor Martinez as a full time DH so it would be tough for Ortiz to fit there. Six teams would realistically have a need for Ortiz: Angels, Royals, Indians, Orioles, Blue Jays, and Yankees. Really only five, because it is impossible to think that the beloved Big Papi could ever play in New York. It would be a betrayal so shocking and disgraceful, worse than Damon and Ellsbury combined, it might generate another 86 year curse. Ultimately, this is a good pitch for the Red Sox and they could let Ortiz see what would be out there on the free agent market, but since he is a DH and creeping up on his 40th birthday, Ortiz has a shorter list of suitors that one would expect for someone ,who is coming off an all star season.

The case for Ortiz is much more simple. He is the face of the Red Sox, he was the face that represented the Red Sox after the marathon bombings, he is irreplaceable. Big Papi is the last remaining member of the ’04 championship season and his experience and leadership cannot be overlooked. Rookies that come up during the season or play with Ortiz during Spring Training often praise him on some influence he has had on them. A quote from SS Jose Iglesias expresses this well,”David’s been in the league for a long time and he knows the guys really well. Every time he says something, you know why he’s saying it. I just listen to him, hear his advice and get better.” These are all good reasons why the Red Sox want to keep him around and this is before even talking about his own field success. Ortiz had to prove many people wrong that wrote him off after his injury-plagued 2012 season, where nothing went right for the Red Sox. He responded by playing in 137 games and hit .309 along with 30 home runs in his age 37 season. Then he really took off in the playoffs hitting .353 with 5 home runs in 16 games, including a game changing grand slam in the bottom of the 8th in the ALCS against Detroit, when the Red Sox were losing 5-1. Ortiz was unstoppable in the World Series, hitting .688 and reaching base 19 times. His whole performance in 2013, leading the Red Sox to their 8th World Series title, is enough to have earned another year in Boston and it is hard to think that the Red Sox don’t get a deal done before the end of the season, although it could come much sooner. Ortiz is deserving of a contract for one year somewhere in the neighborhood of $14-$16 million and he will earn it not only for everything he does on the field, but also because of how much Big Papi means to Boston and its fans.