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OC Register: Angels file motion to dismiss defamation suit by former clubhouse worker

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The Angels have asked an Orange County judge to throw out part of a lawsuit filed against the club and Major League Baseball by a former clubhouse employee. The case is scheduled for a Jan. 21 hearing.

The Angels fired Bubba Harkins in March because he provided substances that pitchers applied to baseballs illegally, and in August Harkins filed a suit against the club and MLB for defamation. Harkins claimed he was a scapegoat in baseball’s crackdown on the use of foreign substances.

Lawyers retained by the Angels and MLB this week asked Judge Melissa R. McCormick, of the Orange County Superior Court, to dismiss the defamation portion of the suit. The filing suggested the suit violated California’s Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) law, which protects the Angels’ right to make the statements that Harkins believes were defamatory.

In the filing, the Angels maintain that Harkins “has not established and cannot establish a probability of success on the merits of these claims.”

In the suit, Harkins also alleged the Angels had violated labor codes by firing him. There was no mention of that charge in the filing by the Angels’ attorneys.

Harkins had worked for the Angels for nearly 40 years, including the last 30 years as the visiting clubhouse manager. In March he was fired for distributing so-called “Go Go Juice” to pitchers.

Harkins alleged in his suit that the substance was not illegal and that it was commonly used by pitchers on the Angels and the visitors. He also objected to the characterization that he was a “traitor” to the team that employed him.

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