Former Pitcher Claims That Signs Were a Trade Secret

Maintaining that “sign stealing” by Houston Astros cost him a job in the major leagues, former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Mike Bolsinger has refiled a lawsuit against the team in a Texas court.

As the Houston Chronicle notes,

Bolsinger, who hasn’t pitched in the majors since allowing four runs and four walks in a third of an inning against the Astros on Aug. 4, 2017, contends his signs were trade secrets under Texas’ Uniform Trade Secrets Act. He is seeking more than $1 million in damages.

The Blue Jays designated Bolsinger for assignment following that game against the Astros and took him off the 40-man roster. He later played with a professional Japanese baseball team and is now a free agent.

A judge in California dismissed an earlier lawsuit by the pitcher in March, in part because Bolsinger and his attorney allegedly tried to get sympathy from potential jurors who were fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers – whom the Astros defeated in the 2017 World Series.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the Astros’ owner and a baseball operations employee were part of the team’s “Codebreaker” scheme. Both men were named as defendants in Bolsinger’s previous suit.

According to the complaint, The Athletic published an article detailing how the Astros electronically stole signs during the 2017 season. Major League Baseball (MLB) then launched an investigation. The MLB Commissioner released his findings in 2020 and confirmed that the Astros had engaged in sign-stealing.

The Astros’ manager and others were fired as a result. As the Bleacher Report noted, the Astros were also fined $5 million and lost their first- and second-round draft picks for 2020 and 2021.

The sign-stealing scheme allegedly involved the use of a camera in center field. Astros personnel would allegedly watch the feed in a hallway in the clubhouse and dugout and would relay what was coming to the hitter by hitting a garbage can.

According to the complaint,

A “bang” usually meant that an off-speed pitch was coming, and the Defendant Astros personnel did not make any noise when a fastball was coming.

The Athletic conducted a deep statistical dive into the 2017 season and found that the sign-stealing strategy led to an unprecedented improvement in the Astros’ batting:

They went from punching out 1,452 times in 2016 to a mere 1,097 in 2017, which meant they transformed themselves from a team that was striking out at one of the highest rates in history to a team that struck out less than any team in baseball that season.

Bolsinger claims that his signs were trade secrets as defined by the Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act and that the owners of the secrets had taken reasonable measures customary in baseball to keep them secret.

As trade secrets, he alleges, the signs derived independent economic value from not being known to, and not being readily ascertainable through proper means by, another person who can obtain economic value from the disclosure or use of the information.

Categories: Trade Secrets