I’ve been somewhat remiss in my coverage of baseball ethics in recent months; its been like Sauce Bearnaise Syndrome: the Red Sox have been having such a nauseating season that even thinking about baseball has been painful. This story broke through my wall of pain because it also pings my legal ethics alarms.
Back on June 29 (before the Red Sox turned into mud, in fact), Fox Sports Radio host Doug Gottlieb tweeted that LA Dodger Freddie Freeman’s agent, Casey Close, never communicated a contract offer that the Braves had made to free agent Freeman last winter before Freeman left the team he had always played on to sign with the Dodgers. Freeman was upset about the report; the Braves, and the Atlanta fans were also outraged, because Freeman was a popular and superb player for the Braves. Casey Close, however, was more upset than all of them combined. Not communicating a contract offer to a client is a throbbing neon ethics violation for a sports agent (it would lead to suspension of a law license if a lawyer did it) and Gottlieb’s claim could ruin Close’s career if it couldn’t be disproved. Close sued Gottlieb for defamation in July.
Yesterday Gottlieb tweeted:
On June 29, I commented on alleged circumstances surrounding Freddie Freeman’s negotiations with the Atlanta Braves and his relationship with his former agent Casey Close. While I always strive to report accurate information, I prematurely reported on these events and simply got it wrong. Upon further vetting of my sources, a review of the lawsuit filed against me in this matter, and a direct conversation with Casey himself, I have learned that the conduct I alleged did not occur and that there is no credible basis for stating that it did. My ultimate investigation into this matter confirms that Casey Close did, in fact, communicate all offers to Freddie Freeman and the sources I relied on were incorrect, in no uncertain terms. I appreciate the damage that misinformation like this can cause and have been in touch with Casey Close to apologize directly. I have also deleted my original tweet.
Translation: “Oopsie! Never mind!” That’s really not good enough; not even close (no cheap pun intended). No responsible journalist—or anyone—should make a damning, potentially career-wrecking allegation like that without being 100% certain of the facts. Lawyer-baseball substacker Craig Calcaterra also makes a good point about the “after a review of the lawsuit filed against me” line. He says, “It’s like some movie where a guy pulls a gun on another guy and the second guy says ‘Well, I suppose I see your point!’”
Close’s agency quickly tweeted that the agent “considers the matter closed. I assume there has been a confidential financial settlement; I’d be shocked if there wasn’t. Meanwhile, Gottlieb is now in something close to the position into which his recklessness placed Close. Luckily for him, nobody trusts sportswriters anyway, nor do they have to for a sportswriter to keep getting a paycheck.