After months of speculation concerning the contents of the “scandalous” sealed letter that supposedly contained evidence of a previously unknown cheating scandal involving the New York Yankees, the contents were allegedly revealed in a report by Andy Martino, an MLB Insider for SportsNet New York, in which he says SNY “obtained’ the letter Tuesday morning. Twenty-nine fanbases had been waiting years, decades even, to hold something over Yankee fans’ heads other than them just being terrible people. Meanwhile the Houston Astros’ fanbase waited eagerly to pull the uno reverse card on the franchise that had been clamoring for an asterisk to be placed next to the 2017 World Series championship banner in Minute Maid Park. This was supposed to be an undoing for the Yankees! Did the report provide that wave of satisfaction for baseball fans? Not really.
According to the report, the letter “does not implicate the Yankees in a sign-stealing scheme similar to the one for which the Houston Astros were punished.” It does, however, prove that the Yankees were using a system involving dugout phones to relay signs to runners on second, who would then relay the signs to the hitter. We already knew that though. They weren’t using YES network cameras, like the Red Sox insinuated, but they’d already been “punished” by MLB for this cheating scandal, even if that “punishment” was just a measly $100,000 fine (which had been previously unreported). Also, the letter does not indicate that the Yankees were using phones to relay signs after September 15, 2017, the date that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred wrote to all 30 MLB clubs stating that any use of high-speed cameras to relay signs would be met with the hammer of justice.
Martino claims in his report that the letter has still “not yet been unsealed.” How he and SNY were able to “obtain” it without unsealing it, I have no idea. I don’t get how that works, maybe he meant it ‘had yet to be unsealed to that point,’ but we can’t know for sure. Hopefully, when the letter is officially unsealed later this week, we’ll have more clarity on the situation. Until then though, we can only go off Martino’s report. How convenient.
So, what does this mean? First off, the Yankees cheated, but not to the extent that the Astros did, it appears. The system the Yankees were implementing could only be accomplished with a runner already standing on second base, while the Astros were able to relay signs to hitters at any point during an at-bat. This type of sign-stealing was supposedly used in some shape or form by several MLB clubs prior to Manfred’s statement on September 15, 2017. How many teams? We have no idea. According to MLB Insider Jeff Passan, “other teams were very likely doing similar things to New York and Boston. That element spanned the game.”
The report from Martino also claims that “the Yankees and Red Sox were among the many clubs who began to use their video replay room for that purpose,” although the “other teams” are not named, so the validity of this statement, although widely believed to be true, has never been confirmed. We can say for sure that both the Astros and Red Sox were caught using high-speed cameras to relay signs to hitters after Manfred’s statement (the Red Sox during the 2018 season when they won the World Series and the Astros during the 2017 postseason when they, too, won the World Series). Both teams were punished for their misdeeds.
In the tweet I posted above, Passan refers to the Yankee Letter as a “nothing-burger.” Based on the report, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Any cheating, no matter how many other players or teams were doing it, is a violation of the integrity of the game, and, as long as Manfred was not actively encouraging teams to use replay in this way or turning a blind eye from it (as Bud Selig allegedly did during the steroids era), should be punished. That being said, the Yankees were already fined for this. This letter provides virtually no new information other than the fact that the Yankees were not using YES cameras for their sign-stealing and that it cannot be proved that they participated in sign-stealing after Manfred warned all 30 teams on 9/15/17. So it stands to reason they had their own camera sign-stealing operation going.
That begs the question: “If the Yankees had already been punished by MLB for cheating in 2015 and 2016, why were the Yankees and MLB trying so hard to stop this letter from leaking to the public?” It makes it seem as though there is something more at play we aren’t being told. I wouldn’t put it past MLB to forge a narrative like this prior to the unsealing in order to undermine what gets revealed when the letter officially gets unsealed with its contents exposed to the world. After all, they’ve never shown that they care about the integrity of the sport before.
Basically, if the report turns out to be true, the Astros are still terrible. The Red Sox are still terrible. The Yankees are still terrible, but not as terrible as many people hoped. Of course, as I said earlier, the report also notes that the letter itself has not been unsealed, so perhaps the contents of the letter were misconstrued by Martino, but we can’t be sure…not yet at least.