HOUSTON, Texas — As spring training nears, the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal continues to be the centerpiece of the baseball world, with players, past and present, speaking out seemingly daily.
On Monday, former major league pitcher Mike Bolsinger entered the mix with a potential precedent-setting civil lawsuit.
Bolsinger — hardly the largest name associated with the scandal — was pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays on Aug. 4, 2017 in Houston, when the Astros tagged the journeyman reliever for four runs, four hits and three walks in one-third of an inning. It took just 29 pitches – probably fewer – for Bolsinger to think that the Astros were up to something.
“I don’t know if I’ve had a worse outing in my professional career,” Bolsinger told 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.”
The Astros won 16-7 and it ended up being Bolsinger’s last appearance in the majors. He was demoted by Toronto the following day.
On Monday, he fired back, filing a civil lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court. He is accusing the Astros of unfair business practices, negligence and intentional interference with contractual and economic relations. According to the suit, filed by Ben Meiselas of Geragos & Geragos in Los Angeles, Bolsinger stated that the “Astros’ unlawful and tortious business practices have had consequences far beyond wins and losses and strikeouts or home runs.”
How much the Astros actually knew in advance about Bolsinger’s arsenal remains to be seen. But with Major League Baseball announcing last month that Houston had used video replay to steal opposing teams’ signs during the 2017 and 2018 seasons, tipping off their batters by banging on a garbage can, Bolsinger says his case has merit.
Bolsinger, 32, is seeking damages in three distinct lanes with the suit, including for himself. He’s also asking the Astros to forfeit the nearly $31 million in bonuses from the 2017 World Series championship, with the funds instead going to charities in Los Angeles focused on bettering kids’ lives. He also wants to create a fund for retired baseball players who need financial assistance.
The Astros, who fired manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow last month after MLB’s findings were announced, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
“There’s a message to be sent to youth out there, especially athletes, more specifically baseball players. It was awesome to (grow up) and watch the game played the right way. We’ve kind of drifted from that,” Bolsinger told USA Today. “It’s something we can really express to these kids: You don’t have to cheat to get to where you want to go.”
All told, Bolsinger went 0-3 with a 6.31 ERA in 11 appearances with Toronto in 2017. He pitched in Japan in 2018-19, and with pitchers and catchers reporting this month, he is among those still seeking a job with a big league club.
According to the lawsuit, an Astros fan who wrote a web application to document every instance of trash-can banging found that the most bangs took place in that Aug. 4, 2017, game. And the most bangs in the game came when Bolsinger was on the mound. According to the lawsuit, there were bangs on 12 of his 29 pitches.
“The Houston Astros team members and managers were bragging how good their offense was and how productive they were, and it was at the hands of cheating,” Meiselas told USA Today. “And the consequence was Mike.”
Hinch said in his postgame availability that night that it was “not unusual for us to have big nights when we put good at-bats together,” according to the lawsuit.
Bolsinger also pitched for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers in his four-year career, going 8-19 with a 4.92 ERA.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.