Major League Baseball and the Yankees released statements Tuesday after the contents of a previously sealed letter from commissioner Rob Manfred to Yankees general manager and senior vice president Brian Cashman from September 2017 were publicly revealed for the first time.
In the letter, dated Sept. 14, 2017, Manfred informed Cashman that an investigation into sign-stealing allegations found that the Yankees used the video playback room in 2015 and 2016 to decode sign sequences and pass them to a computer. runner at second base. who would then transmit them to the batsman. The Yankees were fined $100,000 for inappropriate use of the dugout phone. The investigation cleared the Yankees of using the YES Network cameras (ie, the center field camera) to steal signs, as the Red Sox had alleged.
The letter does not include allegations that the Yankees used sign-stealing technology during the 2017 season and, more importantly, predates Manfred’s September 15, 2017 announcement that, as of that day, sign-stealing electronic signs would be subject to harsher punishments. . The Astros and Red Sox were subsequently disciplined for electronic sign theft that took place after September 15, 2017.
MLB’s statement on the matter reads as follows:
“As previously made public in 2017, the New York Yankees were fined for dugout phone misuse because replay review regulations prohibited the use of the replay phone to transmit any information other than changing a play. . The Yankees did not violate MLB rules at the time governing sign stealing.
“At the time, the use of the replay room to decode signals was not expressly prohibited by MLB rules as long as the information was not communicated electronically to the dugout. Because the rules regarding the use of replay had evolved, many clubs moved their video equipment into close proximity to the field, giving staff the potential ability to quickly transmit signals to the field.
“MLB clarified the rules regarding the use of electronic equipment on September 15, 2017. MLB took additional steps on March 27, 2018, drawing a clear line and making it explicit to the 30 clubs that any clubhouse or room equipment could not be used to decode signals and that future electronic signal theft violations would be subject to serious penalties, including possible loss of draft picks.”
The Yankees had resisted release of the letter as part of a lawsuit brought by DraftKings contestants alleging MLB sign-stealing damages. In April 2020, US District Judge Jed S. Rakoff dismissed the lawsuit but ordered the letter unsealed. The Yankees lost the final appeal of that decision last week.
The Yankees statement reads:
“The content and details of Commissioner Manfred’s letter to Brian Cashman have been widely reported since 2017. As the facts of the letter again show, the Yankees were not penalized for stealing signs, but they were penalized for improper use of the telephone in the replay room (which would only be used for replay review challenge discussions). At the time, sign stealing was used as a competitive tool by numerous teams in Major League Baseball and only became illegal after the Commissioner specifically outlined the rules on September 15, 2017.
“The Yankees were also vindicated by Major League Baseball regarding claims that the team used YES Network resources in an effort to gain an illegal advantage during games. Those accusations were considered to have no merit.
“The Yankees vigorously fought the production of this letter, not only because of the legal principle involved, but to avoid inaccurately equating events that occurred before the Commissioner’s establishment of the sign-stealing rules with those that occurred after. What should be crystal clear is this: The fine outlined in Major League Baseball’s letter was imposed before the new MLB rules and standards were issued.
“Since Major League Baseball clarified its regulations regarding the use of video room equipment on September 15, 2017, the Yankees have had no infractions or violations.”