Angry Birds

I have to admit, when I first heard about Albert Pujols suing Jack Clark for defamation based on Clark’s comments that Pujols used performance enhancing drugs, I loved it. I genuinely hate the St. Louis Cardinals. I realize that is unprofessional and immature, but it is the truth. I hate their whining, I hate their holier than thou attitude and I hate their hypocrisy. Most of all, I hate that they usually beat the Reds.

So the idea of two former Cardinals going at it meant that at least one of them had to lose. But I didn’t think much more about it until one of my colleagues sent me the letter from Clark’s lawyer to Albert’s lawyer, responding to a settlement demand from Pujols. It is priceless. Over the years I’ve received my share of snarky letters, and believe it or not, written my share of snarky letters. But the letter from Albert Watkins, Esq. is in a class by itself. Worth the read.

But getting beyond the snark, I wonder about Watkins’ legal position. He may be slicing things a bit too fine. For example, he notes that “juicing” – a term Clark used in his statements – could have several meanings. And Watkins contends that “performance enhancing drugs” could include all sorts of remedies. He points to Viagra and Ben Gay as two examples. Really.

If Watkins truly plans to depend on those arguments, he may have as tough a time as Reds pitchers used to getting Pujols out.  A defamation plaintiff can point to context to make his claim. So, sure “juicing” standing alone could refer to making a breakfast drink. But not when the context is a discussion of steroid use in baseball. And I suppose Viagra “enhances performance” – but Clark was not referring to tiny blue pills. 

Of course, as a libel plaintiff, Pujols needs to prove he didn’t use steroids. And as a public figure he needs to prove Clark knew his comments were false or was “reckless” in making them. That is a tough standard. And I imagine ultimately Mr. Watkins will focus on those defenses rather than semantics.