Is there a drug coverup in baseball? The latest claims against the MLB
Rosin & pine tar. That’s all it takes to create a concoction that will enhance your pitching. The sticky substance helps baseball players get a better grip on the ball. It also happens to be illegal.
The technique is known as “ball-doctoring” and it cost Brian “Bubba” Harkins his job as visiting clubhouse manager for the Angels. Harkins, 55, had spent decades with the Angels before his dismissal in March last year. An MLB investigation uncovered he had been providing the blend of sticky substances to visiting pitchers.
Harkins, however, has refused to go down without a fight – or without bringing as many people as he can down with him, at least.
Bubba Harkins filed a defamation complaint against the Angels & MLB last August. In response, the Angels & MLB filed a motion to dismiss the complaint in November. In an opposition to the motion, Harkins & his lawyer, Daniel Rasmussen, brought the house down by implicating a long list of MLB players in the ball-doctoring scheme.
Rasmussen’s argument is that Harkins has been used as a scapegoat by MLB for the sake of avoiding a major baseball scandal. Last Thursday, the attorney claimed the Angels “did not want their players disciplined and shamed,” while Harkins has been labeled a “traitor, cheater, and a fraud” ever since news of his firing broke. Bubba Harkins is now considered unemployable, according to his lawyer.
“Our point is, Bubba was made a one-man scapegoat, and that they did this ‘investigation’ in an effort to protect the players,” said Harkins’s attorney. “No player has been disciplined, and Bubba has gotten hammered through this whole thing. His reputation is trashed.”
In order to prove his point, Harkins provided a long list of names from the Angels’ roster over the years, claiming they all used his concoction. In fact, one of the people on the list, Troy Percival, acknowledged back in September that he’d been the one who taught Harkins how to mix the sticky substance. The former closer for the Angels said he did it “mostly because it was so dry in Arizona and the balls were so slick out there.”
In addition to Percival, other names Harkins threw under the proverbial bus include Brendan Donnelly, Tyler Chatwood, and Kevin Jepsen. Harkins also accused more recent baseball players like Cam Bedrosian, Keynan Middleton, Yusmeiro Petit, Luke Bard, Matt Andriese, Dylan Peters, Jose Suarez, and Dylan Bundy – all Angels pitchers.
But Harkins didn’t stop with the Angels. Instead, the disgraced clubhouse manager incriminated some big-time starting pitchers as well: Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Felix Hernandez, Corey Cubler, and Adam Wainwright. If MLB was trying to avoid a baseball scandal, then this is the complete opposite scenario.
Sticking the landing
Three days before Bubba Harkins was fired, MLB sent a memo to all teams informing them the league would be cracking down on the use of illegal substances to enhance a pitcher’s grip. The policy wasn’t new – it had simply been ignored for a long time. Harkins was the policy’s first and only casualty.
MLB might be wishing they’d let Harkins off the hook with just a slap on the wrist. Rasmussen has said he plans to seek at least $4 million in damages if the case goes to trial – an outcome that will be determined in an upcoming hearing on January 21st.
In the meantime, other former baseball major leaguers have jumped to take Harkins’s side against MLB. Wally Joyner & Mike Sweeney provided declarations for Thursday’s filing claiming “many people within the Angels organization knew about the mixture of rosin and pine tar Harkins used to make for pitchers. Many Angels pitchers used it over the years.”
Did MLB overreact or should ball-doctoring be forbidden in baseball? Do you think Bubba Harkins deserved to be fired? Let us know in the comments!