Judge Orders Yankees to Unseal Letter From MLB Allegedly Linked to Sign Stealing
The sign-stealing saga that was unearthed this offseason isn't over just yet. Now, the New York Yankees are allegedly involved.
A New York judge ruled on Friday that a letter sent by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred to the Yankees, addressing findings from a 2017 investigation into the team's supposed sign-stealing scheme, must be unsealed.
This added wrinkle to the sign-stealing scandal has circulated as part of a lawsuit filed by daily fantasy sports contestants against Major League Baseball. DraftKings players accused the league, along with the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox, of defrauding them by stealing signs.
Judge Jed Rakoff wrote in the report that the Yankees organization has argued the letter would cause “significant reputational injury." That's why, in part, the team is being called to submit a "minimally redacted version of the letter" in order “to protect the identity of the individuals mentioned” by noon ET on Monday, according to The Athletic.
A Yankees official, speaking anonymously to The Athletic, said the team is “not doing this to cover up some smoking gun.”
This case was previously dismissed by Rakoff in April, but the plaintiffs appealed the case to the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday.
Prior to disciplining the Red Sox and Astros this year for their respective sign-stealing schemes in 2017, the Yankees had their own punishment. The club was fined in '17 for illegal usage of a bullpen phone. Shortly after, in a press release, Manfred explained that the Yankees' conduct in question was "not a violation of any Rule or Regulation."
Boston was also fined at the time for using Apple Watches to relay stolen signs. Following the '17 season, MLB updated its rules on electronic sign-stealing, which led to Houston's punishment this winter.
Plaintiffs argued on Friday that the report filed three years ago was false in its findings that, "the Yankees had only engaged in a minor technical infraction," Rakoff wrote. They believe the investigation rather proved New York "engaged in a more serious, sign-stealing scheme."
The Yankees' representative disagreed.
"There is no justification for public disclosure of the letter,” Jonathan Schiller, a lawyer representing New York, explained in a statement to The Athletic. “The plaintiff has no case anymore, and the court held that what MLB wrote in confidence was irrelevant to the court’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s case. Under established law, this supports the Yankees’ right to confidentiality required by the Commissioner of Baseball.”
Schiller went on to tell The Athletic that the investigation was into conduct from 2015 and 2016, prior to the league's establishment of new regulations on sign stealing.
“It is the Yankees’ understanding that the press release about the investigation reflects the Commissioner’s final determinations,” Schiller said. “Those determinations were that the Yankees had committed a technical violation of MLB’s rules by misusing the dugout phone. The Yankees were not found to have violated any rule involving sign stealing. The press release is accurate and states MLB’s conclusions."
It's worth noting, Andy Martino of SNY reported on Saturday afternoon that Manfred's letter to the Bombers in 2017 did not allege sign stealing.
Sources told Martino that New York is lobbying to keep the letter sealed because its employees took part in a confidential process during MLB's investigation. Therefore, the document should remain confidential. Martino explained that letters from the commissioner to both Houston and Boston have not been made public. The Yankees are contending their letter – three years later – should remain sealed as well.
New York has the right to make an emergency appeal ahead of the afforded deadline Monday afternoon. The Athletic confirmed that individuals with knowledge of the case expect the Yankees to do so.
Still, that the Yankees don't want this document unsealed, even though this investigation has since been closed, raises questions about what, if anything, the team is hiding. Why file the appeal to keep the letter sealed if there is nothing damning in it?
Rakoff explained that under typical procedure, the contents of the letter would have been revealed. That said, Major League Baseball and the Yankees, at the time, "requested continued sealing of the letter."
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