This is a story about baseball, and a lawsuit, and what might turn out to be a very smart legal strategy. If you're running a business and you can imagine that you might ever have a legal hassle, you'll want to pay attention.
It starts with a journeyman baseball player name Mike Bolsinger. Until this week, probably only the most diehard fans would have remembered much about his career.
In August 2017, Bolsinger was with the Toronto Blue Jays. He pitched a fraction of an inning in a single game against the Houston Astros. He got shellacked, giving up four runs.
After the game, Bolsinger was sent down to the minors. His major league career seemed over. But then, last month, Major League Baseball announced it was sanctioning the Astros as part of a sign-stealing scandal.
That let Bolsinger know, as he put it in a court filing, that when he played that fateful day, the Astros had "decoded and stolen the sign for essentially every pitch" he threw against them.
So, he sued the Astros this week.
Good for him, I say. What's the alternative? Sit quietly after you believe your career was stolen as a result of unfair play?
Besides, I strongly suspect that the Astros players and coaching staff never imagined they could wind up getting their team sued as a result of this alleged conduct.
Now, there are two interesting takeaways from Bolsinger's lawsuit from a business and strategy perspective.
- First is that he filed in California Superior Court in Los Angeles. Remember, the game took place in Houston, Bolsinger played for Toronto at the time, and he's in fact a resident of Texas himself. Los Angeles is 1,500 miles away.
- Second, Bolsinger sued almost immediately after the MLB story broke. That's noteworthy because so many litigants wait to file suit--either to negotiate before taking action in court, or else just because of human inertia.
Now, I suspected an obvious reason for choosing Los Angeles, if Bolsinger's team could make an argument that it had the right to do so. It's because during that controversial 2017 season, when Houston won the World Series, the team they beat was the Los Angeles Dodgers.
All things considered therefore, Bolsinger would rather be in front of a Los Angeles jury.
Sure enough, that's what one of his lawyers, Ben Meiselas, told me in an email:
"If you're gong to cheat a city out of the World Series, and essentially steal millions from the city, you should face a jury in that city."
(Jurisdiction is sometimes a complicated legal issue, but Meiselas told me, and the lawsuit alleges, that some of the member-investors of the Houston Astros corporation actually live in Los Angeles.)
The lawsuit also asks for the Astros' 2017 post-season bonuses to be given to Los Angeles charities, and to "a fund for elderly retired professional baseball players in need of financial assistance."
Second, why file the lawsuit immediately? Why not wait to go to court, since sometimes--not always--you can negotiate a better settlement before you've actually dragged the other side before a judge?
Well, for that we can go right to the complaint, which points out that after being cut from the Blue Jays, Bolsinger played for two years in the Japanese league, where he was an All-Star.
And, it adds in 17 key words, that he is now: "currently a free agent hoping to secure a job in the United States for the 2020 season."
There we go. Maybe this could turn out great for Bolsinger.
Win a lawsuit, become a hero, and possibly even sign with another major league team. Without that line in the complaint, it's easy to imagine he wouldn't have been on anybody's radar.