Bubba Harkins case helped by a “new wrinkle”, according to his lawyer

Lawyer for a former Angels employee who was fired for providing a mix of sticky substances to pitchers to help them master baseball believes the sport’s renewed emphasis and the impending crackdown on substance use foreigners could strengthen his client’s case against the team and the major. Baseball league.

“Only a jury would know for sure, but it makes it clear what the story is, that the use of pine tar and related substances is now quite openly discussed,” said Daniel L. Rasmussen, the lawyer representing Brian. “Bubba” Harkins. Monday. “It’s the new wrinkle that I think will help us.”

Harkins, 55, spent nearly four decades with the Angels and was the visiting clubhouse manager when he was fired on March 3, 2020.

He filed a libel suit against the team and the MLB on August 28, claiming he had become a “public scapegoat” in baseball’s efforts to enforce a long ignored policy banning the use of illegal substances. by the launchers.

Harkins has presented evidence in court records that many Angels, including Troy Percival and Brendan Donnelly, and star pitchers such as Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Corey Kluber and Adam Wainright, have used his concoction of rosin and pine tar, known as “the sticky stuff”, over the past two decades.

Percival, the closest Angels from 1995 to 2004, told The Times he taught Harkins how to mix in spring practice “mainly because it was so dry in Arizona and the balls were so slippery there “. Although Harkins admitted to providing the substances, he claims he did not personally apply them to the baseballs.

Rasmussen planned to seek at least $ 4 million in damages if the case goes to trial, but an Orange County Superior Court judge in January allowed a motion from the Angels and the MLB to dismiss the lawsuit at the ground that Harkins could not identify who specifically defamed him. .

“Basically what is claimed to be unfair is that Mr Harkins was punished for it while others were not and should not have been fired for it,” wrote Justice Geoffrey Glass in his decision. “It can be a basis for an action for employment, but not for libel.”

Rasmussen filed the opening appeal brief with the Santa Ana Fourth Court of Appeal last week, the start of a lengthy process that the attorney says will lead to an appeal panel of three. judges overturning Glass’s decision and remitting the case to a lower court. court for trial.

Meanwhile, the use of foreign substances by pitchers – especially those looking to increase spin rates, not just improve grip – has erupted into a full-blown controversy this season. The league spent 2.5 months collecting balls used in the game to examine them and analyze turnover rates, and have reportedly informed clubs that they will start cracking down on the use of foreign substances by next week.

Any evidence that the use of foreign substances has been a widespread, accepted and unpunished practice for years could strengthen the case of Harkins, the first – and only – MLB employee who lost his job amid the crackdown on the MLB against pitch-doctoring.

“I think that definitely brought it all to light, because a year and a half ago people weren’t sure what the problem was,” Rasmussen said. “There is no doubt that MLB cannot escape the publicity that is going on with the pitchers.”

In his first public comments since being fired, Harkins – in an article published on Monday Sports Illustrated website – said: “If they did an investigation and only found me, that’s a pretty bad investigation. “

Rasmussen said Harkins was unable to find another job.

“Bubba has its good days and its bad,” Rasmussen said. “It’s a bit of a difficult situation.

To make matters worse, a judge in April ordered Harkins to pay $ 35,000 of the nearly $ 160,000 the Angels and the MLB accumulated in attorney fees, the cost of losing a civil case.

“Bubba doesn’t even have the $ 35,000 the judge ordered, so I guess we’ll see if they want to force him into bankruptcy then,” Rasmussen said. “He has been unemployed for over a year and lives off unemployment. The only way out is to file for bankruptcy… or to win an appeal. “

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