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Before Mike Bolsinger could ask a court to decide whether the Houston Astros played fair with him, the Astros claimed the judge could not play fair with them.
Bolsinger, a former Dodgers and Toronto Blue Jays pitcher, sued the Astros and owner Jim Crane in Los Angeles County Superior Court last month, arguing the Astros’ sign-stealing scheme resulted in a pitching performance so poor that he has been unable to find another job.
The Astros have not yet filed a response to Bolsinger’s claim. But Harry Mittleman, one of the defense attorneys, this week submitted a declaration saying the Astros did not believe Crane and the Astros could have a “fair and impartial trial” before Malcolm Mackey, the judge assigned to hear the case.
Mackey, 90, was first elected to the Superior Court in 1988.
In a Superior Court case, each side is entitled to ask for a new judge. Mike Kump, a partner in the Santa Monica firm of Kinsella, Weitzman, Iser, Kump and Aldisert, said such requests are routinely granted and cases are put on hold until a new judge is assigned, usually in a matter of weeks.
The request does not require elaboration. Mittleman did not respond to a request for comment about why he believed his clients could not get a fair hearing from Mackey.
“I have no clue why the Astros feel that way about that particular judge," said Ben Meiselas, the attorney for Bolsinger, "but the irony is not lost on me that the team that broke every rule and cheated to win a World Series is now claiming a randomly assigned judge would not be fair to them."
In 2017, the year the Astros violated rules against technologically-driven sign stealing, Bolsinger, then with the Blue Jays, made an Aug. 4 relief appearance in Houston.
He faced eight batters, seven of whom reached base. He threw 29 pitches — with 12, according to the suit, preceded by the bangs on a trash can that were the sounds used to alert Astros batters that an off-speed pitch was coming. He was sent to the minor leagues after the game and cut after the season.
Bolsinger, 32, has a career major league record of 8-19, with a 4.92 earned-run average. Those statistics would cause skeptics — and almost certainly the Astros’ lawyers — to scoff at the notion that one game changed the course of his career.
However, he said, the Blue Jays had just converted him from a starter to a reliever, and every outing was critical in their evaluation of whether to keep him.
”That type of journeyman guy I am, a guy that might be on the fringe, you only get so many opportunities,” he said. “You can’t be a guy like that and go out there and have an outing like I did.”
In addition to whatever damages the court might award him, Bolsinger has asked that the Astros be assessed $31 million in restitution — an amount believed to be equal to their postseason award bonuses in 2017 — and that the money be donated to charities.