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The Court of Appeal annuls 2017 letter from MLB to Yankees regarding violation of rules

In June 2020, a district court in New York ordered Major League Baseball and the Yankees to overturn a letter sent by Commissioner Rob Manfred to New York General Manager Brian Cashman in 2017 regarding the club’s 2015-16 rule violations. The Yankees appealed that decision, but the appeal was rejected by the 2nd Circuit last week, as Evan Drellich of Athletic reported on Thursday.

The contents of the so-called “Yankee letter” – which is expected to be officially released later this week – were reported by Andy Martino of SNY this afternoon. The letter revealed that MLB determined that the Yankees had used the video playroom to decode signs in the 2015 and 2016 seasons. The letter also revealed that the team occasionally used the dugout phone improperly to forward decoded signs from the replay room to the dugout. When New York had a runner at second base, this one would run along the upcoming pitch type for the batter. (The Athletic had reported in January 2020 that the Yankees had used the replay space to decode signs). Allegations by the Red Sox, Yankees, used cameras from the YES Network to steal signs, were found unfounded in Manfred’s letter.

Perhaps the most notable new piece of information from the release of the letter is that MLB fined the Yankees $ 100,000 for misusing that dugout phone. That the league had imposed Yankees fines was reported in September 2017, though the size of the penalty was unknown until today.

All violations of the Yankees’ rules outlined in the letter took place before September 15, 2017, when the league informed all 30 clubs that it would crack down on sign theft. That separates the Yankees ‘violations from the Astros’ 2017-18 scandal of sign theft (which was also far greater in scope than the league found the Yankees had orchestrated) and the Red Sox’s 2018 abuse of the video room.

The Yankees and MLB both issued statements this afternoon (via Drellich), which delimited infringements before 15/09/17 and those that took place after MLB announced its repression. As part of his statement, the league stated the Yankees “was fined for improper use of the dugout phone because the Replay Review Regulations prohibited the use of the replay phone to transmit information other than challenge a play. The Yankees did not violate MLB rules at the time regulating sign theft.

The Yankees stated that they were partially opposed to the publication of the commissioner’s letter “to prevent the incorrect equating of events which occurred before the establishment of the Commissioner’s sign theft rules with those that took place after. What should be made vividly clear is this: the fine in Major League Baseball’s letter was imposed before MLB’s new rules and standards were issued.

Fans expect to make their own judgments about the moral implications of the Yankees’ actions. Although it is felt that theft of signs before the league’s defeat was fair game, there is no doubt that the New York organization broke the league’s rules regarding the dugout phone when they used it to pass signs from the replay room to the staff at the path. That said, nothing in the content of the Commissioner’s letter comes as a surprise compared to what had already been reported. It is clear from the league’s statement on the matter that it considered the issue as final after collecting the fine five years ago and there will be no further discipline.

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