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The mysterious New York Yankees letter was leaked to the public Tuesday, just a few days before it was scheduled to be unsealed by judge's order. We finally know what MLB commissioner Rob Manfred wrote to Yankees GM Brian Cashman regarding MLB's investigation into cheating allegations against the team.
So what did the letter say? There are two main revelations: The Yankees used their dugout phone to relay stolen signs in 2015 and 2016, and Manfred appears to have hid the truth from the public when he said in a statement in 2017 that the Yankees hadn't cheated.
The letter, which is scheduled to be unsealed later this week as part of a now-dismissed lawsuit brought against MLB by DraftKings customers, goes over a number of things that are public knowledge — namely that MLB found the Boston Red Sox had used electronic equipment, including a smartwatch, to steal and communicate signs to give the team an advantage.
What the public didn't know was that MLB had also found that the Yankees had stolen signs using the video room and the bullpen phone — a scheme which Manfred said was "similar" to what the Red Sox had done. During an interview with MLB's department of investigations, a Yankees employee — the same Yankees employee who initially noticed that the Red Sox were stealing signs with a smartwatch — said that he would gather info on opposing team's signs and relay that info to players or coaches, who would then bring it to the dugout to be used on the field. When the team was away, they used a different process. (The name of the Yankees employee has been redacted.)
[Redacted] also admitted that during that same time period, in certain stadiums on the road where the video room was not proximate to the dugout, used the phone line in the replay room to orally provide real-time information about opposing Club's signs to Yankee coaches on the bench.
These activities took place during the 2015 season and part of the 2016 season, before the Houston Astros developed their more sophisticated real-time sign-stealing system.
Manfred, MLB hid the truth
Until the leaked letter was published by SNY on Tuesday, the public had no idea that the Yankees had stolen signs in that way. Numerous clubs had been using their replay room to steal signs, but the Yankees' use of the dugout phone is the defining feature of this scheme. Here's what Manfred wrote to the Yankees about their rules violation, in which he pointed out that the Yankees and Red Sox used strikingly similar cheating methods:
The Yankees' use of the dugout phone to relay information about an opposing Club's signs during the 2015 season, and part of the 2016 season, constitutes a material violation of the Replay Review Regulations. By using the phone in the video review room to instantaneously transmit information regarding signs to the dugout in violation of the Regulations, the Yankees were able to provide real-time information to their players regarding an opposing Club's sign sequence - the same objective of the Red Sox's scheme that was the subject of the Yankees' complaint.
That is quite different from what Manfred wrote in a public statement just one day later. In that statement, he cleared the Yankees of using their TV station, YES Network, to gain a competitive advantage, and fined them for a technical violation of the dugout phone rules. Nowhere does he mention that the Yankees also used technology to steal signs, which is exactly what the Red Sox were fined for doing, or that their use of the dugout phone was part of that scheme.
In the course of our investigation, however, we learned that during an earlier championship season (prior to 2017) the Yankees had violated a rule governing the use of the dugout phone. No Club complained about the conduct in question at the time and, without prompting from another Club or my Office, the Yankees halted the conduct in question. Moreover, the substance of the communications that took place on the dugout phone was not a violation of any Rule or Regulation in and of itself. Rather, the violation occurred because the dugout phone technically cannot be used for such a communication.
Why did Manfred and other MLB higher-ups decide to hide the truth from the public? The reasons are unknown. However, in a statement released Tuesday afternoon, the Yankees are sticking with what Manfred said in his public statement: They were fined for improper use of the dugout phone and absolutely nothing else.