General view outside Yankee Stadium on July 8, 2016.

General view outside Yankee Stadium on July 8, 2016. Credit: Getty Images/Michael Loccisano

TAMPA, Fla. —  A letter the Yankees have fought hard to keep secret for several years  soon may see the light of day.  

A federal appeals court Monday affirmed a lower court’s decision in rejecting the Yankees’ argument that a letter written to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman by commissioner Rob Manfred that allegedly details a Major League Baseball investigation into sign-stealing should remain sealed.  

U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff, as part of a ruling in April 2020 dismissing a lawsuit brought by a group of fantasy sports players who claimed damage as a result of rampant sign-stealing in MLB, said the letter should be unsealed.

The Yankees, in arguments made by team president Randy Levine, said then that the letter should not be made public because the club was not part of the lawsuit and publication of the letter could only serve to harm the team’s “reputation.”

“The Yankees primarily contend they will suffer ‘significant and irreparable reputational harm’ not because of the actual substance of the Yankees letter, but rather 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 Monday. “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.”

It is not yet clear if the Yankees plan to continue pursuing legal options to keep the letter from being made public.

The team declined to comment on Monday’s decision and Cashman, approached by reporters outside the Yankees’ clubhouse during that afternoon’s Grapefruit League game against the Phillies at Steinbrenner Field, did not comment.

As part of the dismissed lawsuit, plaintiffs argued that a September 2017 news release from MLB did not disclose  the full findings of the league’s investigation into sign-stealing. The Red Sox were fined an undisclosed amount after being found guilty of illegally using Apple Watches to pick up opposing teams’ signs, an investigation the Yankees helped launch with complaints to the league about suspicions they had. In the same release, the Yankees were found to have “improperly” used a dugout phone in an undisclosed previous   year. The club was fined, the 2017 release said, a “lesser” amount than the Red Sox.

The Red Sox, in response to the Yankees’ complaint that year, counterclaimed the Yankees had used their YES Network to aid in stealing signs, something Manfred said in the release could not be verified, stating, “We found insufficient evidence to support the allegation.”

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