Appeals court rules letter allegedly showing MLB hid Yankees sign theft must be unsealed

tampa — A federal appeals court rejected the Yankees’ argument that a letter proving that MLB hid the team’s sign-stealing plan should not be unsealed.

The Yankees had said that the letter — from Commissioner Rob Manfred to Yankees chief executive Brian Cashman — would damage the team’s reputation, and that the letter should never have been brought to court in the first place because it had no were part of the first lawsuit.

It would prove that in 2017 the Yankees did more than just misuse a dugout phone around the same time as the Red Sox’s Apple Watch scandal.

In an opinion released Monday by the U.S. Court of Appeals second judge Debra Ann Livingston, the court said the Yankees’ concerns were unfounded.

A source said it could take two weeks or more for the court to release the letter, which is expected to be redacted to protect the identities of certain individuals named in it.

In its judgment, the court also upheld the dismissal of a $5 million lawsuit that DraftKings player Kristopher Olson filed with more than 100 other plaintiffs against MLB, the Houston Astros and the Boston Red Sox over the illegal sign theft scandal that has left the sport on its knees. put head. the winter of 2019-2020.

A U.S. District Court judge initially ordered the letter’s release, but the Yankees opposed it. It took more than a year for the appeals court to rule against the team.

“In light of Plaintiffs’ attempt to use the letter in their proposed second amended complaint and the Court’s discussion of the letter in explaining its decision to reject Plaintiffs’ request for permission to amend their reconsideration request , and because MLB disclosed a significant portion of the letter’s contents in its press release about the investigation, we conclude that the court did not abuse its discretion in disclosing the letter, subject to redacting the names of certain persons,” wrote Livingston.

The letter was actually related to the Apple Watch fiasco between the Yankees and Red Sox in 2017, team president Randy Levine said when arguing against the letter’s release on Dec. 14, 2020. At the time, the league fined Boston for its illegal use. of the letter. look to pass signs to players, it said in a press release. The Yankees were fined a smaller amount for improper use of a phone in a previous season.

At the time, Levine argued that releasing the letter would create “serious” privacy concerns and that letters submitted by the Astros and the Red Sox as confidential in the lawsuit were not made public.

Levine also argued that releasing the letter would damage the reputation of the Yankees.

“However, that argument weighs little,” the judge wrote on Monday. “The disclosure of the document will enable the public to independently assess MLB’s conclusion regarding the internal investigation (as worded to the Yankees), and the Yankees are fully in a position to disseminate their own views on the actual contents of the Yankees Letter. In short, alleged distortions as to the contents of the Yankees letter can be remedied by the widespread availability of the factual contents of this court document to the public, and the corresponding ability of MLB and the Yankees to comment on it publicly. ”

The original lawsuit, originally dismissed in April 2020, alleged that MLB, the Astros and the Red Sox were liable for the money DraftKings bettors lost during games that may have cheated Houston and Boston. DraftKings is a fantasy sports betting company that became MLB’s authorized gaming operator in 2019.

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Brendan Kuty can be reached at: bkuty@njadvancemedia.com

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