• Greg Moretto

Why The Unsealing Of The Infamous 2017 “Yankee Letter” Won’t Be As Big Of A Deal As You Might Think


The fallout from the 2017 Astros cheating scandal is threatening to add another name to its list, as on Monday U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Debra Ann Livingston advocated the release of the infamous letter written by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred to Yankees GM Brian Cashman in 2017. This letter will bring about the demise of the New York Yankee organization and the end of baseball as we know it! Not really. This letter was already ruled to be unsealed by a federal judge in 2020, and Judge Livingston came to her decision Monday “because MLB disclosed a substantial portion of the substance of the letter in its press release about the investigation…” in 2020[1].


Clearly, this recent decision was made because the contents of the letter were already public knowledge, and keeping them confidential didn’t matter anymore when considering the “cheating” events occurred during an unspecified earlier season, and that the Yankees were already punished for those actions in 2017[2]. What heinous crimes did the Yankees commit you may ask? They improperly used a dugout phone to relay signs “at some point in a prior season”[3]. Yawn. Yankee haters and Astro fans alike are chomping at the bit to see the contents of the letter, and surely hope it will reveal a massive cheating scheme as serious as the Astros 2017 scandal. The Yankees’ brass, understandably so, were against the publication of the letter, as in December of 2020 Yankee President Randy Levine argued to keep its content secret, citing “serious privacy issues”[4].


The position of the Yankee management on this issue is not surprising, as they want to protect themselves and the prestigious reputation of their organization from unfounded slander. Regardless of the contents of the letter, those who dislike the Yankees will use it as a way to criticize the organization and extrapolate any actual minor improper practices into some multi-season cheating scandal that incriminates every player and every member of management. I’m exaggerating, but my point sticks. What seems to be lost on people here, is that the judicial rulings which ordered the unsealing of this letter cited the already public knowledge of the Yankees dugout phone use, and how they were fined an undisclosed amount (along with the Boston Red Sox).


This letter really has nothing of value in it, other than what baseball fans already knew about in 2017. From the perspective of the Yankee organization, the publication of this letter only seeks to hurt them, not for what it could contain, but for what the media and the public will make of it and how they will use it as a way to criticize the team and legitimize any accusation of cheating for the foreseeable future. The entire mystery around this letter stems from a 2017 lawsuit filed (and subsequently dismissed) by daily fantasy players of DraftKings, seeking damages as a result of the Astros scandal, and also accusing Rob Manfred of hiding the full scope of the Yankees “cheating” in the confidential letter[5]. Nevertheless, the unsealing of this letter should prove interesting, and should hopefully put to bed further accusations of cheating by fans against the Yankees.


Greg Moretto is a Pre-Law Student at Boston College ‘23. He is a member of the BC Sports Business Society E-Board. He can be found on Twitter @grejmoretto.


Image of Randy Levine via Getty Images


[1] https://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/mlbs-top-50-prospects-2022-ranking-adley-rutschman-bobby-witt-jr-and-the-rest-of-baseballs-young-talent/ [2] https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/15/mlb-fines-red-sox-and-yankees-for-use-of-apple-watch-and-phones.html [3] CNBC [4] https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/33564909/mlb-letter-new-york-yankees-sign-stealing-allegations-made-public-appeal [5] https://www.chron.com/sports/astros/article/What-is-Yankees-Letter-unsealed-cheating-baseball-17018684.php