Judge Orders MLB to Unseal Letter Regarding 2017 Yankees Sign Stealing Investigation

Yankees MLB Sign Stealing
A view of the New York Yankees Spring Training facility at George M. Steinbrenner Field on March 18, 2020 in Tampa, Florida.
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Months after Major League Baseball punished the Houston Astros for their sign-stealing scandal, the league might have another bit of sign stealing to deal with publicly. According to The Athletic, New York judge Jed Rakoff has ordered that a 2017 letter from MLB to the New York Yankees be unsealed as part of an unrelated lawsuit brought against the league by DraftKings players.

Rakoff had previously ruled in favor of the league in the DraftKings lawsuit, but the plaintiffs appealed, arguing that the 2017 letter to the Yankees would outline sign stealing that affected daily fantasy baseball players’ ability to play the game fairly. This drags the Yankees into a lawsuit that originally only targeted MLB, the Astros, and the Boston Red Sox, and New York is arguing that unsealing the letter could provide reputational harm to the team and its personnel.

In his decision to unseal the letter, Rakoff pointed out that most of the contents of the 2017 letter were actually revealed in a press release during the same year, wherein MLB announced that they were fining the Yankees for “a minor technical infraction.” The plaintiffs are arguing differently, as outline by Rakoff in his decision:

Plaintiffs alleged that the 2017 Press Release falsely suggested that the investigation found that the Yankees had only engaged in a minor technical infraction, whereas, according to plaintiffs, the investigation had in fact found that the Yankees engaged in a more serious, sign-stealing scheme

The Yankees now have until June 19 to file an emergency appeal to block the release of the letter; The Athletic’s sources believe the team is likely to do just that. If that appeal fails, the letter will be released with minor redactions to protect certain individuals with “a strong privacy interest in maintaining anonymity.”

Yankees lawyer Jonathan Schiller is arguing that the release of a letter unrelated to the case at hand is irregular and without basis, despite Rakoff’s ruling:

The Yankees are not a party to the case. There is no basis for the confidential Yankees letter to be disclosed or reported on in a case that was dismissed with prejudice on grounds unrelated to this letter or this press release.

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