MLB letter to New York Yankees detailed illicit use of technology prior to 2017 sign-stealing edict

ByBuster Olney ESPN logo
Tuesday, April 26, 2022
MLB approved electronic device in effort to eliminate sign stealing
MLB approved use of electronic device for catchers to signal pitches in effort to eliminate sign stealing and speed games.

A years-old letter sent by Major League Baseball to the New York Yankees and obtained by ESPN on Tuesday details illicit use of technology that was relatively benign within the context of the sign-stealing scandals that occurred around the game at the same time.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Second Court of Appeals denied the Yankees' request to keep the letter -- from MLB commissioner Rob Manfred to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman -- under seal.

The letter was first published by SNY on Tuesday.

The video above is from April 2022 detailing the new PitchCom system aimed at preventing sign-stealing.

That the Yankees fought to keep the letter under court-ordered seal in recent years raised eyebrows and fed conspiracy theories about what's in the letter -- to the degree that some baseball officials have been befuddled by the team's handling of the issue, believing it would have been better to simply release the letter and move on.

Manfred's letter contains information about technology violations that occurred before the commissioner issued a memo to all teams in September 2017, a mandate that was regarded as a benchmark in the evolving concern about sign-stealing within the sport. Manfred warned teams that he would hold the front offices and staffers accountable for violations, and that violators faced penalties that included the possible loss of draft picks.

In January 2020, the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox were penalized for using technology to steal signs late in the 2017 season and in 2018, after Manfred's memo was issued.

In its investigation of the Astros, Major League Baseball determined that with the use of a television monitor, hitters were informed of the identity of the forthcoming pitch during their at-bats, in real time -- extensive, systematic violations that would lead to the suspensions and dismissals of general manager Jeff Luhnow, manager A.J. Hinch and Astros bench coach/Red Sox manager Alex Cora, while former Astros player Carlos Beltran resigned from his new position as manager of the New York Mets.

SEE MORE: Timeline of Houston Astros cheating scandal

Here's how the illegal sign stealing evolved.

The details contained within Manfred's letter to the Yankees note violations that players and staffers say became commonplace within the sport after instant replay monitors were installed within proximity of the dugouts in 2014.

In the letter, Manfred informed the Yankees that MLB's investigation found that the team's players watched the monitors in 2015 and 2016 to discern pitch-sequence information that was then relayed to baserunners, in the hope that they could communicate this to the batter. Additionally, the letter notes that former Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild called the replay room to ask about pitch identification, which is against the rules.

Manfred's letter to Cashman does not suggest any real-time conveyance of signs from the dugout to the hitters during their at-bats -- the threshold established in the Astros' case -- or violations after Manfred's memo in September 2017.

The Yankees were fined $100,000 by Major League Baseball, and the money was allocated for Hurricane Irma relief.