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Bubba Harkins’ defamation lawsuit against Angels and MLB settled before going to trial


Former Angels visiting clubhouse manager Brian Harkins reached a confidential agreement with the team and Major League Baseball to settle his defamation complaint on Monday morning, ending a three-year legal battle between the sides just hours before the “sticky stuff” case was scheduled to go to trial.

Daniel L. Rasmussen, the attorney representing Harkins, confirmed the settlement, but a non-disclosure agreement between the parties precludes both he and Harkins, nicknamed “Bubba,” from revealing the settlement amount or discussing the case.

An Angels spokesperson said the team could not comment on the case, other than to say that “the matter is settled.”

Rasmussen told The Times in July 2021 that he planned to seek at least $4 million in damages if the case went to trial. When asked last week if there was any progress toward a possible settlement, Rasmussen said the sides were “miles apart.”

Harkins spent nearly four decades with the Angels before being fired by then-general manager Billy Eppler in 2020 after the Angels learned he was providing a blend of sticky substances to visiting pitchers in violation of MLB rules.

Harkins filed suit in August 2020, claiming he was made a “public scapegoat” in baseball’s efforts to crack down on the use of foreign substances. The complaint listed “defamation” and “false light” as causes of action against the Angels and MLB.

Harkins claimed he was fired without warning, labeled a “traitor, cheater and a fraud” in the wake of news reports of his dismissal and is now unemployable.

Attorneys for the Angels and MLB filed a motion for summary judgment on May 31, claiming that Harkins conceded in a deposition that he provided “sticky stuff” to visiting pitchers and that he was unable to identify who leaked the details of his March 2020 firing to the media.

Rasmussen argued in an opposition motion that Harkins merely provided the blend of rosin and pine tar–which former Angels closer Troy Percival taught Harkins to make in the mid-1990s–to visiting pitchers such as Gerrit Cole and Max Scherzer and numerous Angels pitchers and that he didn’t apply it to baseballs. Thus, he did not break any rules.

In 10 minutes of oral arguments before Judge McCormick on June 22, Adam Lauridsen, the attorney representing the Angels and MLB, argued that the substance itself is illegal because it was “being provided to a pitcher with knowledge that the pitcher is going to apply it to his hand or the ball to get an improved grip.”

Rasmussen countered by saying pine tar and rosin are regularly used by hitters, “so it’s not illegal,” he said. “What’s illegal is the act of a pitcher using a foreign substance on a baseball. … To ask the court to throw out this case after all the litigation and on the eve of trial based solely on these word games is inappropriate.”

Judge McCormick denied the last-ditch effort by the Angels and MLB to have the case dismissed on June 23, clearing the way for a trial.

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