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OC Register: Fired Angels clubhouse worker files documents supporting lawsuit against team

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Attorneys for fired Angels clubhouse worker Bubba Harkins have submitted affidavits from former big leaguers Wally Joyner and Mike Sweeney and text messages from Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole as part of their lawsuit against the Angels.

The documents, filed in Orange County Superior Court on Thursday, were submitted to demonstrate that Harkins did not supply “illegal substances” and that he was not a “traitor” to the Angels.

In the suit, Harkins’ attorneys claim that his reputation was damaged by the publicity surrounding the case. The suit claims the publicity surrounding Harkins dismissal was the equivalent of a $20 million advertising campaign.

The Angels declined to comment on the ongoing legal issue.

The case is currently scheduled for a hearing on Jan. 21.

Harkins was fired on March 3, 2020, after 38 years of employment with the Angels in various jobs, including 30 years as the visiting clubhouse manager.

Harkins was fired days after Major League Baseball sent a memo to its clubs instructing them that there would be a crackdown on the use of foreign substances on baseballs.

Harkins’ suit charges the Angels and MLB made him a “scapegoat” for providing such substances.

The filing on Thursday includes extensive documentation about the widespread use of substances to help pitchers grip the baseball, particularly in cold weather.

“Brian Harkins was not a traitor to his team,” Joyner said in his affidavit. “Many people within the Angels organization knew about the mixture of rosin and pine tar Brian Harkins used to make for pitchers. Many Angels pitchers used it over the years. Many Angels coaches have encouraged its use by pitchers over the years. Why? It makes the game safer.”

Joyner played for the Angels from 1986-91 and continued his big league career through 2001, subsequently becoming a big-league hitting coach.

Harkins also provided an affidavit in which described how longtime Angels closer Troy Percival helped him create the substance. He named a handful of other Angels pitchers who used the substance: Brendan Donnelly, Tyler Chatwood, Kevin Jepsen, Cam Bedrosian, Keynan Middleton, Yusmeiro Petit, Luke Bard, Matt Andriese, Dylan Peters, Jose Suarez, Kaleb Cowart and Dylan Bundy.

Harkins also provided text messages from Verlander and Cole. Verlander’s message, received just after Harkins was fired, included an invitation to talk on the phone. Harkins wrote that in their conversation he and the two-time Cy Young Award winner discussed that MLB “has let this go on for 100 years.”

Cole’s text, dated Jan. 17, 2019, included the star pitcher asking Harkins for help. Cole was about to begin his second and final season with the Houston Astros, the Angels’ AL West rivals. Following the 2019 season when he was the AL Cy Young runner-up to Verlander, Cole signed a $324 million deal with the New York Yankees.

“Hey Bubba, it’s Gerrit Cole. I was wondering if you could help me out with this sticky situation. (Wink emoji) We don’t see you until May, but we have some road games in April that are in cold-weather places. The stuff I had last year seizes up when it gets cold…”

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The old "Everyone else was doing it, why you picking on me?" defense.

You're right - he should patent the formulation and sell it online.  

I'm sure this is more about wringing a settlement out of the Angels to avoid the cost of litigation than actually going to trial.  

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