Curt Flood

Curt Flood’s lawyer was unprepared

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This comes from the “I never knew that” file.

Apparently Curt Flood’s attorney in front of the Supreme Court for his famous — and ultimately ill-fated — challenge of the reserve clause was woefully unprepared. That, via the New York Times, is the story that will be told in a documentary that will air tonight on HBO entitled “The Curious Case of Curt Flood.”

The lawyer was not just any lawyer, though. It was Arthur J. Goldberg, who was a justice on the freaking Supreme Court from 1962-1965, helping (for better or worse, depending on your point of view) take the court in a sharply more liberal direction than it had been in the past. Goldberg crafted decisions on the death penalty and privacy rights, among other things, which continue to help fuel fierce debate to this day.

Say what you want about the merits of those decisions, but you don’t make that kind of mark by half-assing things.  Goldberg had a very bad day representing Curt Flood in 1972, however, and as the story and the documentary explain, it was probably because he half-assed it:

He did not deliver pointed, persuasive arguments. He lost his place. He did not answer justices’ questions directly. He clumsily listed Flood’s season-by-season batting averages. He went past his allotted time. He repeated himself. He spoke as if he did not understand baseball, citing the several “Golden Gloves competitions” Flood won for his excellent work as a center fielder. Brad Snyder, the author of “A Well-Paid Slave,” about the Flood case, wrote that Justice William Brennan cringed at watching his friend’s struggles.

David Stebenne, Goldberg’s biographer, said Goldberg admitted that he had not prepared the way he should have, incorrectly assuming that the justices who had served with him would see the error of sticking by past decisions — and not wait any longer for Congress.

On the one hand, the effect of this may be overstated.  Most appellate judges and their clerks will tell you that, usually anyway, the judges’ minds are made up before the oral argument, based on reading and scrutinizing the legal briefs which have already been submitted.  Oral argument is used to test the preliminary decision that was made, suss out nuances which were unclear from the briefs and that kind of thing.  Sure, the arguments can change a judge’s mind, but if you’re going to strike out on one of the phases of the case, better to have a bad day at oral argument than to submit a bad brief.

That said, you should do neither. A lawyer can win a case if he or she is talented or relatively untalented. A lawyer can win a case if the law is mostly on their side or if they’re fighting an uphill battle. What a lawyer can rarely get away with, however, is being unprepared. It casts a pall on your entire case. It causes the judges to go back and look at that brief and wonder if it really was as good as they thought. It also freaks your client out, and that’s not good.

My guess: Goldberg’s awful, unprepared performance didn’t change the course of the Curt Flood case,* because the justices likely made up their minds beforehand.  But it sure as hell didn’t help.

 

*I don’t have HBO, so someone tell me tomorrow if the documentary comes to any strong conclusion about this.

Mets are considering pushing back Jacob deGrom’s next start

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 18: Jacob deGrom #48 of the New York Mets pitches against the San Francisco Giants during the first inning at AT&T Park on August 18, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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The Mets are concerned with starter Jacob deGrom and are considering pushing back his next start, MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo reports. The club thinks the right-hander is fatigued.

deGrom, 28, has had another strong season, currently standing with a 2.96 ERA and a 137/32 K/BB ratio in 143 innings. However, he’s battled command issues in his last two starts. Against the Giants and Cardinals, he gave up a combined 13 earned runs on 25 hits and three walks with eight strikeouts in nine and two-thirds innings.

The Mets are already without Steven Matz, Zach Wheeler, Matt Harvey, and Jon Niese. deGrom’s recent bout is just the latest in what has been a season-long starting pitching struggle for the club. Nevertheless, only the Cubs (2.85) and Nationals (3.57) have posted a better aggregate starting pitching ERA than the Mets’ 3.66.

Rangers call up Carlos Gomez, designate Drew Stubbs for assignment

HOUSTON, TX - JULY 08:  Carlos Gomez #30 of the Houston Astros waits for batting practice to being before playing the Oakland Athletics at Minute Maid Park on July 8, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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The Rangers have called up outfielder Carlos Gomez from Triple-A Round Rock and designated outfielder Drew Stubbs for assignment, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. Gomez is in Thursday night’s starting lineup against the Indians, batting eighth and playing left field.

Gomez, 30, put up a paltry .210/.272/.322 triple-slash line in 323 plate appearances for the Astros. That forced the Astros to designate him for assignment before eventually releasing him earlier this month.

In 14 plate appearances with Round Rock, Gomez racked up two singles, a double, and a triple. The Rangers hope he can fill the void left by Shin-Soo Choo, who is expected to miss the rest of the season.