The Houston Astros do not believe a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge will grant them a fair trial.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Houston’s lawyers notified the counsel for former MLB pitcher Mike Bolsinger, who is suing the club over the impact their sign-stealing scheme had on his career, that they are challenging the impartiality of the judge overseeing the case.
The Los Angeles Times reports Judge Malcolm H. Mackey was originally assigned to the case.
Mackey, 90, was elected to the Superior Court in 1988 and is currently serving a term that runs through 2025.
Why the Astros sought Judge Mackey’s removal
In a filing sent to Ben Meiselas, the attorney for Bolsinger, the Astros’ counsel wrote, “The judicial officer named above is prejudiced against the party or his or her attorney so that the declarant cannot, or believes that he or she cannot, have a fair and impartial trial or hearing before the judicial officer.”
The report notes that Houston’s Los Angeles-based attorney, Hueston Hennigan, did not provide evidence or reason supporting the prejudice claim. Neither was required because California law allows both parties one uncontested peremptory challenge to remove a judge.
Not surprisingly, the request was met with a fiery response from Bolsinger’s attorney.
“I have no clue why the Astros feel that way about that particular judge,” Meiselas told the Times, “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.”
According to The Athletic’s Daniel Kaplan, the Astros had previously filed to delay their first scheduled response until early April.
How long will the case be delayed?
Under usual circumstances, a new judge is assigned within a matter of weeks.
However, the coronavirus pandemic and the associated shutdowns are impacting the judicial system as much as everything else. At this point, it’s not clear how long the court will need to find a new judge or how the case will proceed once a new judge is in place.
Why Mike Bolsinger is suing
On Feb. 10, Bolsinger filed a lawsuit against the Astros and owner Jim Crane for “unfair business practices” relating to their sign-stealing scheme. In addition to personal damages, Bolsinger is asking that the Astros forfeit the nearly $31 million they earned by winning the 2017 World Series, which came at the height of their sign-stealing.
Bolsinger, who spent time with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Toronto Blue Jays and Arizona Diamondbacks, was sent to the minors after getting pounded by Astros hitters on Aug. 4, 2017. The then-29-year-old right-hander allowed four runs in one-third of an inning. He has not appeared in a major-league game since.
“I don’t know if I’ve had a worse outing in my professional career,” Bolsinger told USA Today in February. “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.”
Part of Bolsinger’s case is based around research done by Astros fan Tony Adams, who listened to every pitch Astros hitters faced at home in 2017. The Astros were relaying signs spotted from a center-field camera by banging trash cans in the dugout.
A Major League Baseball investigation determined the Astros violated the league’s sign-stealing policy. The team was fined $5 million and lost their top two picks in the next two drafts. General manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch were both suspended a year and then fired by the Astros.
Bolsinger’s case could set a precedent for other pitchers who believe the Astros’ scheme impacted their career.
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