Judge rules letter from Rob Manfred to Yankees to be unsealed

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On Friday, The Athletic’s Evan Drellich reported that a New York judge ruled that a letter sent from commissioner Rob Manfred to the Yankees, regarding a sign-stealing investigation, should be unsealed and made public. The Astros, Red Sox, and Yankees are defendants in a lawsuit filed by daily fantasy sports contestants in the wake of sign-stealing scandals.

In late 2017, Yankees GM Brian Cashman filed a complaint to Major League Baseball, accusing the Red Sox of using an Apple Watch to steal signs. The Red Sox responded by accusing the Yankees of fixing a YES Network camera on bench coach Gary DiSarcina in order to steal signs. The league investigated both incidents and commissioner Rob Manfred fined both clubs an undisclosed amount. Manfred found insufficient evidence to support that claim that the Yankees were stealing signs but did find that the Yankees used a dugout phone illegally during “an earlier championship season.” The Yankees last won the World Series in 2009.

The Yankees say that unsealing this letter would cause “significant reputational injury.” Drellich suggests the Yankees will make an emergency appeal rather than unseal the letter by June 19.

Drellich noted in his reporting on the Red Sox sign-stealing scheme that the Yankees (and other teams) used a similar scheme in previous years, before the league announced it would be cracking down on sign-stealing. This was done as far back as 2015. The rules on sign-stealing then had a lot of “gray area” so the Yankees weren’t disciplined. A player who was with the Yankees and part of the scheme said, “I’m just telling you from a broad perspective, living it, it didn’t feel that wrong. It was there for everyone, that’s all.”

The Yankees and MLB could be seeking to keep this letter sealed as a standard operating procedure. There are sound legal reasons for wanting this letter to remain sealed beyond simply hiding guilt. They could also be doing so to prevent themselves from being outed. If the contents of the letter differ from what Manfred said in the press release concerning the league’s investigation into the Yankees, it could be another bombshell controversy for the league that has been embroiled in controversy.

Judge Jed Rakoff, who made the Friday ruling on the letter, writes that the Yankees’ and MLB’s privacy interests are “modest at best, and not nearly strong enough to overcome the robust presumption of access that attaches to the Yankees Letter.” We’ll have to see if the Yankees — and the league — get their way with an emergency appeal.