Updated Monday night to include response from Pujols’s lawyer.
Earlier this month, slugger Albert Pujols sued former New York Yankee (and St. Louis Cardinal and San Francisco Giant) Jack Clark for defamation.
Now, through his attorney, Clark has responded by challenging Pujols to a duel. Clark’s weapon of choice: the polygraph.
Clark, known in his playing days as Jack the Ripper, ripped into Pujols on a St. Louis radio show in August, stating that he knows “for a fact” that Pujols, who played 10 seasons for the Cardinals before jumping ship for the Los Angeles Angels in 2012, used steroids.
Pujols filed suit October 3, alleging that “[i]n an attempt to generate ratings during the first week of his The King and the Ripper radio program, for his own personal gain, or for other wrongful reasons yet unknown, Clark targeted Pujols and published and disseminated malicious, reckless and outrageous falsehoods about him, falsely asserting that Pujols used steroids and illegal performance enhancing drugs.”
Next: If Clark’s allegations were outrageous, attorney Albert Watkins’s letter to Pujols’s counsel–who received it Monday morning–gives them a run for their money …
“In re-reviewing your Demand Letter, my eye was attracted to the italicized sentence on the first page. … You concisely noted that Mr. [Pujols] ‘has never taken any illegal performance enhancing drugs. …‘ (emphasis added to add emphasis),” Watkins writes, having noted that he has personally traveled to the Dominican Republic, where Pujols was born, and was “impressed with the wide array of readily and publicly accessible” steroids and PEDs. “I do not see any allegations in the underlying Petition encompassing the assertion that Mr. Clark referenced illegal performance enhancing drugs. Am I missing something on this front…? Does your statement mean that Mr. [Pujols] admits to taking legal performance enhancing drugs?”
Watkins goes on to propose a settlement whereby Pujols and Clark each submit to a lie-detector test–Pujols to address whether he is being deceptive when he asserts that he has never used PEDs, Clark to address whether he was told by Pujols’s former personal trainer that he had indeed “juiced.”
If Clark fails the test and Pujols passes, the letter states, Clark will “issue a public statement … fully retracting all objectionable statements.” If Pujols fails and Clark passes, Pujols must drop the defamation suit and publicly apologize to Clark. And if they’re both found to be liars, the suit gets dropped and “neither party needs to apologize to the other.”
In the letter, Watkins says that Pujols’s legal team has 10 days to accept the offer. Otherwise, he plans to “vigorously proceed with what inevitably will be a highly charged, entertaining, and public spectacle.”
By suing his accuser, Pujols has opened himself up to depositions digging into both his professional and personal life. Above all, focusing legal scrutiny on the accusation brings with it the specter of public attention.
“You are bringing to the forefront, center on stage number one in the strip club of the media, the very subject matter that you’re seeking to suppress,” Watkins elaborates to the Village Voice. “If Mr. Pujols is fully aware of what awaits him as a plaintiff in a defamation-of-character lawsuit, my suggestion is that he run to the polygraph test at full speed, despite any nagging injury.”
Next: Pujols’s lawyer responds to the polygraph test offer…
Pujols’s legal team did not need the full 10 days to think it over. Martin Singer, the Los Angeles-based attorney representing the Angels’ superstar, tells the Voice that his client will not be taking up “the ridiculous proposal.” Singer called it “an absurd publicity ploy.”
“Instead of relying on the facts and letting a jury decide based on evidence, Jack Clark’s attorney has turned this into a media circus,” says Singer. “There’s a reason polygraph exams are inadmissible in civil and criminal cases.”
Rather than duke it out on lie detector machines, Pujols and Singer will go head-to-head on the witness stand.
“Albert Pujols will testify in this case under oath, under penalty of perjury,” says Singer. “Third party witnesses have also come forward to testify under oath that Jack Clark’s statements about my client are false.”
Clark, whose career ended in 1992 after stints with the San Diego Padres and Boston Red Sox, did not invent the rumor that Pujols has taken performance enhancing drugs. For at least two decades, such whisperings have followed elite athletes since the dawn of their big-league careers. In Pujols’s case the badmouthing reached its loudest national-media-wide pitch in 2006, when Chris Mihlfeld, a Kansas City-based personal trainer with whom he’d worked since before turning pro, was erroneously linked to a report involving Jason Grimsley, a former Royals pitcher who’d admitted using PEDs.
Pujols vehemently denied ever using the substances: “If they want to test me,” he told reporters at the time, “then let’s go. I’ll do it tomorrow. No problem.”
Clark’s August 2 comments on his fledgling St. Louis radio talk show thrust Mihlfeld’s name back into the headlines. The exchange stemmed from a remark made by Clark’s on-air partner, Kevin Slaten, who said he’d long suspected Pujols “has been a juicer.”
Clark broke in and declared, “I know for a fact he was. The trainer that worked with him, threw him batting practice from Kansas City, that worked him out every day, basically told me that’s what he did.”
The Ripper said Mihlfeld, who’d known Pujols since the slugger’s junior-college days, alleged the illicit training regimen while Mihlfeld and Clark were employed by a Los Angeles Dodgers minor league affiliate. Clark claimed Mihlfeld said to him, “‘Listen, I can put you through the same workout, but you won’t be able to keep up with same workout that I put Albert through. But I can inject you the same way that I inject Albert and get the results.”
What stood out about Clark’s accusation, Singer explains to the Voice, was that he expressed it as “a statement of fact”– unlike Slater, who conveyed his accusation as an opinion.
“That’s why we’re suing him and not his partner,” says Singer.
Mihlfeld released a statement refuting Clark’s anecdote:
I haven’t even talked to Jack Clark in close to 10 years. His statements are simply not true. I have known Albert Pujols since he was 18 years old and he would never use illegal drugs in any way. I would bet my life on it and probably drop dead on the spot if I found out he has. As before once again both Albert and myself have been accused of doing something we didn’t do.
On August 9, the St. Louis station fired Clark and Slaten, asserting in a statement that the company “never asserted and [does] not assert that Albert Pujols has ever used steroids or any other type of performing enhancing drug.”
Click through for the text of the lawsuit and Clark’s defense counsel’s letter in response.