Court Ruling to Unseal Sign-Stealing Letter Puts New York Yankees on Verge of Potential Scandal

The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered a letter detailing an MLB sign-stealing investigation be unsealed

A detailed view of the New York Yankees logo on top of Steinbrenner Field. A judge recently ruled in March 2022 that an MLB letter related to a sign-stealing investigation of the New York Yankees be unsealed.
A detailed view of the New York Yankees logo on top of Steinbrenner Field.
Mark Brown/Getty Images

Approximately two years after a New York judge ordered a 2017 letter from Major League Baseball to the New York Yankees detailing a 2017 investigation into the club for stealing signs be unsealed, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals has rebuffed requests from the Yanks and MLB to keep the letter private.

The order is related to a lawsuit brought against the league by DraftKings players about electronic sign-stealing’s impact on daily fantasy competition in which the plaintiffs claim that a press release put out by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred in 2017 hid the full nature of what MLB found. In a press release at the time, Manfred said the Yankees improperly used their dugout phone but that “the substance of the communications” didn’t violate league rules.

If the letter that Manfred sent Yankees general manager Brian Cashman states the same thing, the Yankees and MLB have nothing to worry about. But if the letter reveals a greater degree of cheating, it will make the Yankees look bad for doing it and MLB look worse for covering it up.

“The Yankees primarily contend they will suffer ‘significant and irreparable reputational harm’ not because of the actual substance of the Yankees letter, but rather because its content would be distorted to falsely and unfairly generate the confusing scenario that the Yankees had somehow violated MLB’s sign stealing rules, when in fact the Yankees did not,” Circuit Judge Joseph F. Bianco wrote for a panel that also included Chief Judge Debra Ann Livingston and Circuit Judge Gerard E. Lynch. “That argument, however, carries little weight. Disclosure of the document will allow the public to independently assess MLB’s conclusion regarding the internal investigation (as articulated to the Yankees), and the Yankees are fully capable of disseminating their own views regarding the actual content of the Yankees Letter. In short, any purported distortions regarding the content of the Yankees Letter can be remedied by the widespread availability of the actual content of this judicial document to the public, and the corresponding ability of MLB and the Yankees to publicly comment on it.”

The Yankees and MLB now have 14 days to decide whether to appeal the unsealing of the letter. If they don’t, the contents of the letter should be revealed right around MLB’s Opening Day on April 7. That would be a perfect way to start the season for a league that just can’t seem to get out of its own way.

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