Yankees in arms after judge’s orders to unlock MLB letter

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The illegal sign-stealing drama that rocked MLB before the pandemic might not be over – and this time it involves the Yankees.A letter from Yankees commissioner Rob Manfred detailing the findings of a 2017 investigation into the ball club’s alleged sign theft program is expected to be unsealed, a judge ruled Friday, according to The Athletic.

The Yankees and MLB would have until noon Monday to submit a “minimally redacted version of the letter,” although the Yankees argued it would cause “a significant reputational injury,” U.S. District Court Judge Jed Rakoff wrote in an order.

Rakoff’s decision relates to a lawsuit filed by DraftKings players against MLB, Astros and Red Sox for allegedly defrauding them with their respective sign theft programs. Rakoff dismissed the lawsuit in April, but the plaintiffs have since appealed to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Three years before Houston became the face of the illegal sign-steal, the Yankees were fined an undisclosed amount for improper use of a bullpen phone during a previous season. The Red Sox were also fined an undisclosed amount for allegedly using Apple Watches to relay stolen signs.

Manfred wrote in 2017 that the Yankees “violated a rule governing the use of the dugout phone,” but that “the substance of the communications [over the phone] was not a violation.

Brian Cashman
Brian CashmanAp

That was before MLB broke its rules regarding the theft of electronic signs following the 2017 season, which led to the Astros’ sanction during the offseason.

The draft kings “alleged that the 2017 press release falsely suggested that the investigation had concluded that the Yankees had committed only a minor technical offence, when, according to the plaintiffs, the investigation had in fact concluded that the Yankees had engaged in a more serious ploy and sign theft,” Rakoff wrote Friday, according to The Athletic.

In a statement to Athletic, Yankees attorney Jonathan Schiller wrote” there is no justification for the public disclosure of the letter. The applicant no longer has evidence, and the court held that what MLB wrote with confidence was irrelevant to the court’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s case. Under established law, this supports the Yankees’ right to confidentiality demanded by the Baseball Commissioner.

Schiller told The Athletic that the findings were related to issues that occurred in 2015 and 2016.

“The Yankees understand that the press release on the investigation reflects the commissioner’s final decisions,” Schiller said. “These determinations were that the Yankees had committed a technical violation of MLB rules by not issuing the dugout’s phone. The Yankees have not been found to have violated any rule involving sign theft. The press release is accurate and sets out MLB’s findings.

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A Yankees official also told The Athletic, “We don’t do this to cover up a smoking gun.”

The letter is expected to be lifted on June 19, giving the Yankees time to order a likely emergency call.

MLB punished the Astros in January after discovering that the club was using electronics to steal receivers’ signs when they won the World Series in 2017 and parts of the following season. MLB’s second investigation into the Red Sox finally ended in April, although their illegal theft of signs was pinned to their video replay operator.

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