You may recall that in April of 2019 former Mets and Phillies outfielder Len Dykstra sued his former teammate and current Mets commentator Ron Darling for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The suit arose out of claims in Darling’s then recently-published autobiography alleging that Dykstra shouted racial slurs at Red Sox pitcher Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd before Boyd took the mound in a 1986 World Series game. Dykstra lashed out at Darling over it, denying it ever happened and then filed suit. Then everyone went quiet.
Now the suit has been dismissed. And it has been dismissed in entertaining fashion, with the judge agreeing with Darling’s claim that Len Dykstra has such a crappy reputation that it’s virtually impossible to libel him.
Really. From the court’s opinion, which you can read in its entirety here:
Based on the papers submitted on this motion, prior to the publication of the book, Dykstra was infamous for being, among other things, racist, misogynist, and anti-gay, as well as a sexual predator, a drug-abuser, a thief, and an embezzler. Further, Dykstra had a reputation—largely due to his autobiography—of being willing to do anything to benefit himself and his team, including using steroids and blackmailing umpires . . . Considering this information, which was presumably known to the average reader of the book, this Court finds that, as a matter of law, the reference in the book has not exposed Dykstra to any further “public contempt, ridicule, aversion or disgrace,” or “evil opinion of him in the minds of right-thinking persons,” or “deprivation of friendly intercourse in society.”
The judge went on to detail a ton of Dykstra’s past bad acts. It took awhile. And then the judge said this:
The nature and seriousness of Dykstra’s criminal offenses, which include fraud, embezzlement, grand theft, and lewd conduct and assault with a deadly weapon, and notably the degree of publicity they received, have already established his general bad reputation for fairness and decency far worse than the alleged racially charged bench-jockeying in the reference could . . .
. . . Given the aforesaid litany of stories concerning Dykstra’s poor and mean-spirited behavior particularly toward various groups including racial minorities, women, and the LGBTQ community—this Court finds that, as a matter of law, the reference cannot “induce an evil opinion of [Dykstra] in the minds of right-thinking persons” or “deprive him of their friendly intercourse in society,” as that “evil opinion” has long existed.
All of this is in service of the legal doctrine about “libel-proof plaintiffs” which, as the court explains in detail, renders one legally foreclosed from suing over an allegedly damaged reputation when your reputation is already irredeemable.
It’s one thing to have everyone on the planet think you’re a scumbag, but it’s another thing altogether for a court to rule that, as a matter of law, you’re a scumbag. That takes years of work to do, really.
Hat’s off to ya, Nails.