The Yankees Letter will be a secret no longer, a court has ruled.
Nearly two years after a federal judge ruled that a letter detailing a 2017 investigation into the Yankees should become a public document, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals has rebuffed the Yankees’ and Major League Baseball’s requests to keep the letter private.
The Yankees and MLB now have 14 days to decide whether to appeal the unsealing of the letter. The Yankees, Major League Baseball and counsel for the plaintiffs declined comment.
Plaintiffs in a lawsuit over the daily-fantasy implications of electronic sign-stealing in baseball alleged that a 2017 press release commissioner Rob Manfred put out punishing the Red Sox and the Yankees hid the full nature of what MLB had found the Yankees to have done. Now, with the letter’s impending release, any differences between what Manfred asserted publicly and his office’s private findings are set to come to light.
“The Yankees argue that the harm from the unsealing of the Yankees Letter will arise 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,’” the court wrote. “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.”
Echoing what judge Jed Rakoff said about the letter, the second circuit reaffirmed that “a substantial portion” of the letter has already been released publicly.
“This letter related to the results of an internal investigation, which plaintiffs allege contradicted a subsequent MLB press release on the same subject,” wrote chief judge Debra Ann Livingston. “In light of plaintiffs’ attempted use of the letter in their proposed Second Amended Complaint and the district court’s discussion of the letter in explaining its decision to deny plaintiffs’ request for leave to amend in their reconsideration motion, and because MLB disclosed a substantial portion of the substance of the letter in its press release about the investigation, we conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion in unsealing the letter, subject to redacting the names of certain individuals.”
Manfred issued fines to the Red Sox and Yankees in 2017 in what became known as the Apple Watch scandal. Electronic sign-stealing didn’t stop at that point: the Astros continued to cheat throughout the remainder of 2017, and both the Astros and Red Sox stole signs electronically in 2018, as well.
(Photo: Abbie Parr / Getty Images)