NEW YORK — The Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox disgraced baseball — but the cheating teams did not defraud fantasy baseball bettors, a judge ruled Friday.
The decision by Manhattan Federal Judge Jed Rakoff took swings at both franchises for the sign-stealing scandal that rocked Major League Baseball, but said the teams’ lies did not rise to a breach of consumer protection laws.
“In 2017 and thereafter, the Houston Astros, and somewhat less blatantly the Boston Red Sox, shamelessly broke that rule, and thereby broke the hearts of all true baseball fans. But did 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,” wrote Rakoff, a passionate Yankees fan.
The lawsuit by DraftKings players, which sought class action status, claimed the teams and MLB had defrauded fantasy baseball bettors by saying neither team cheated. The gamblers, the suit argued, relied on those statements when placing bets.
There were certainly instances when senior members of both teams lied, Rakoff noted in his 32-page decision.
Former Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and former Astros manager A.J. Hinch both denied the team was involved in sign stealing, though a subsequent MLB investigation confirmed both knew of a scheme to do just that.
The Red Sox and Astros also made a false statement when they signed the MLB constitution pledging to adhere to the league’s rules and regulations.
A months-long MLB investigation determined that the Astros used a center-field camera to steal opposing catchers’ signals. Astros players monitored a video feed and alerted their teammate in the batter’s box by banging a trash can from the dugout during the team’s championship 2017 season.
Former Red Sox manager Alex Cora was the Astros bench coach in 2017 and an architect of Houston’s banging scheme. An investigation is ongoing of sign stealing by the 2018 Red Sox, who won the World Series in Cora’s first year as manager.
The Red Sox were fined in 2017 for using Apple watches to steal signs and gain an edge at the plate.
©2020 New York Daily News