Spygate

Judge tosses suit against MLB for sign-stealing scheme, but rips Red Sox and Astros

Judge tosses suit against MLB for sign-stealing scheme, but rips Red Sox and Astros

The lawsuit against Major League Baseball filed by daily fantasy game players, who claimed to be defrauded by the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal, has been dismissed, but not without harsh criticism of the teams by a federal judge.

U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in his ruling blasted the Red Sox and Astros for "shamelessly" breaking both baseball's rules and "the hearts of all true baseball fans."

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In throwing out the suit brought by five daily fantasy players, Rakoff invoked the New England Patriots "Spygate" scandal from 2007, agreeing with MLB lawyers' contention that rulings in similar suits brought by fans against the NFL after the Patriots were caught illegally taping opponents' defensive signals had set a legal precedent for this suit to be dismissed. 

While the suit charged that the Red Sox and Astros had engaged in consumer fraud that created "corrupt" and "dishonest" fantasy contest for companies such as Draft Kings, Rakoff agreed with previous decisions in the NFL cases that ruled fans should know teams will look for any advantage - even "foul deeds" - to try and win.

From Rakoff's ruling: 

[D]id the initial efforts of those teams, and supposedly of Major League Baseball itself, to conceal these foul deeds from the simple sports bettors who wagered on fantasy baseball create a cognizable legal claim? On the allegations here made, the answer is no.

The Astros' sign-stealing scheme led MLB to fine the team $5 million and the one-year suspensions and subsequent firings of manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow. The Red Sox then parted ways with manager Alex Cora, who, according to MLB's findings, was the mastermind of the scheme as Houston's bench coach in 2017. 

That team won the World Series, as did the 2018 Red Sox, who are accused of using a similar system to steal signs under Cora.

MLB has yet to release a report on the Red Sox allegations. Commissioner Rob Manfred said it has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic but will be released before MLB begins its 2020 season. In comments last month in court an MLB lawyer seemed to imply the Red Sox are aware of Manfred's findings and that they disagree with them.

Why Red Sox cited Spygate in response to sign-stealing scandal lawsuit

Why Red Sox cited Spygate in response to sign-stealing scandal lawsuit

New England fans may never escape Spygate. But this time, they have their baseball team to blame for bringing it back into the spotlight.

The Boston Red Sox referenced a New York Jets fan's 2010 lawsuit against the Patriots over New England's videotaping scandal while responding to lawsuits they face from daily fantasy sports players in the wake of MLB's sign-stealing scandal, according to The Athletic's Daniel Kaplan.

Here's the text of the Red Sox' response to one of those lawsuits, per Kaplan:

In Mayer v. Belichick, 605 F.3d 223, 230 (3d Cir. 2010), a class action brought by an aggrieved New York Jets season ticket holder against the New England Patriots and the NFL based on the Patriots’ surreptitious use of videotape to capture their opponents’ signals, the court concluded that the plaintiff class did not have a cognizable legal interest in disclosure of anything about the methods of game play, even where they were in violation of NFL rules.

Translation: Fans can't sue teams based on alleged cheating, which is what the Third Circuit Court of Appeals argued in 2010 while dismissing that Jets fan's lawsuit.

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A handful of daily fantasy sports players have sued the Astros, Major League Baseball and the Red Sox, arguing that Houston and Boston's sign-stealing operations corrupted DFS games and created a non-level playing field.

The Astros already have been punished and universally condemned for an elaborate 2017 sign-stealing system that involved video monitors and trash cans. The 2018 Red Sox are currently under investigation for allegedly using video replay to illegally steal signs, although it appears they'll receive a much lighter discipline than Houston.

As for legal action? It sounds like the Astros, MLB and Red Sox have their best lawyers on the case: All three entities referenced Spygate in their responses, per Kaplan.

Report: NFL discipline for Patriots in 'Spygate 2.0' incident coming in next two weeks

Report: NFL discipline for Patriots in 'Spygate 2.0' incident coming in next two weeks

The Patriots are expected to be disciplined by the NFL in the next two weeks for violations stemming from the "Spygate 2.0" incident in Cincinnati where a team-connected employee videotaped the Cincinnati Bengals' sideline at a game in Cleveland last month, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

That report is consistent with one from the Washington Post earlier this week that said the league has not turned up evidence thus far implicating coach Bill Belichick or the team's football staff in the incident and that a likely penalty would be a fine of hundreds of thousands of dollars and the loss or reduction in the value of a draft pick.

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The NFL released a statement later Saturday night that read, “The investigation is ongoing and there has been no discussion of any potential discipline. Any suggestion of potential discipline or a timeline on an announcement is pure speculation.”

Among that speculation was Schefter citing cases of recent game-day violations that could be used a basis for punishment:

Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported Saturday that it wasn't clear if there was a link to football operations in the Patriots case as the league was awaiting more security reports. 

The Patriots also have an infamous history here. Belichick and the Patriots were fined a total of $750,000 by the NFL and the team was stripped of a first-round draft selection in 2007 after the team was found to be improperly taping opponents’ coaching signals in the case that became known as Spygate.