The fallout from the Houston Astros’ 2017 cheating saga took yet another very interesting turn this week, with former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Mike Bolsinger launching legal action against the Astros organisation.
To put things simply, Bolsinger is claiming that the course of his career was changed after an August 2017 game against the Astros where he was rocked for four runs, and the cause of this was the Astros’ use of an illegal sign-stealing communication system. His career, as some may remember, never recovered after being demoted immediately after that fateful outing and he never pitched in the major leagues again.
The lawsuit, filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday, says Bolsinger is seeking two forms of damages;
- Consequential and general damages suffered as a result of the Astros interfering with and harming his career.
- Restitution in the form of the Astros returning their postseason bonuses ($31 million) from their 2017 World Series win.
The lawsuit states that the bonuses noted within Item 2 are to be paid to charitable causes focused on bettering the lives of children in Los Angeles, and a fund for elderly retired professional baseball players in need of financial assistance. Nice touch, Mike, nice touch.
But here’s the thing…
While it’s been proven beyond doubt that the Astros did cheat during that 2017 season and it undoubtedly had an impact on games, to prove this was the sole cause of ending Bolsinger’s MLB career will be much harder to do.
Bolsinger was a classic MLB journeyman, who bounced around Triple-A and the major leagues for seven years between 2011 and 2017. At Triple-A he rocked a respectable 3.73 ERA in 80 appearances, however in the major leagues he never truly experienced sustained success. His 2015 season with the Los Angeles Dodgers was his best – by far – working to a 3.63 ERA in 21 starts, however things started to spiral downhill after that. In 2016 he made just six starts, going 1-4 with a 6.83 ERA, and in 2017 his 0-3 record and 6.31 ERA was just as bad.
A closer look at his 2017 season, his last, tells a pretty damning story and one which I believe will be very hard for the judge to look beyond. After being called up by the Blue Jays in May, Bolsinger made five starts that month, going 0-2 with a poor 5.61 ERA. He was sent back to the minor leagues and reinvented himself as a reliever. After some encouraging signs, he was recalled in July and made five further appearances, allowing at least one run on each occasion he tossed more than an inning of work. Prior to his last MLB outing against the Astros, Bolsinger’s ERA that season was still a rather unsightly 5.49.
During that final outing, Bolsinger tossed 29 pitches on the way to retiring just one of the eight batters he faced. Subsequent investigations into those 29 pitches uncovered that on 12 of those pitches, the Astros enacted the now infamous bang which unquestionably assisted the batter in the box. Did it assist them enough to ruin Bolsinger’s career though? That’s what the judge must now decide.
While Bolsinger’s intentions are admirable and his actions will certainly divide opinion, the biggest obstacle he will need to overcome to win this case is his inconsistent – if not poor – past MLB performance. Had this poor outing against the Astros been an outlier in an otherwise respectable MLB career, then he would have a much easier time convincing a judge that the impact of the Astros’ cheating was significant. Unfortunately though, the rest of his MLB career performance suggests that these types of poor outings were far too common and as such, proving beyond reasonable doubt that there was a link between the Astros cheating and his career-ending poor performance may be very hard to do.