NEW YORK >> Attempts at cheating are a part of sports, Major League Baseball said in urging a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit by fantasy contestants.
Five men sued MLB, MLB Advanced Media, the Houston Astros and the Boston Red Sox in federal court in Manhattan, claiming fraud, violation of consumer-protection laws, negligence, unjust enrichment and deceptive trade practices by teams that violated MLB’s rules against the use of electronics to steal catchers’ signs. The five said they participated in DraftKings fantasy baseball contests.
“Rules violations — large and small, intentional and unintentional, technical and game-changing — are a never-ending source of sports television, talk radio, web and elevator commentary by sports pundits and fans alike,” MLB said Friday in papers submitted to U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff. “And fans’ general awareness of the potential for infractions is underscored in this case by the fact that clubs were publicly disciplined for electronic sign-stealing violations during the 2017 regular season.”
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred ruled last month the Astros violated sign-stealing rules during home games en route to their World Series title in 2017 and again in 2018. He suspended manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow for one season each, and both were fired by the team. Manfred fined the Astros $5 million, the maximum under MLB rules and stripped the team of its next two first- and second-round draft picks.
He also is investigating allegations against the Red Sox.
In its papers, MLB cited a 2010 opinion by Judge Robert Cowen for a 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel that upheld the dismissal of a suit by a New York Jets season ticket-holder against the NFL, New England coach Bill Bill Belichick and the Patriots over the Spygate scandal.
“It appears uncontested that players often commit intentional rule infractions in order to obtain an advantage over the course of the game,” Cowen wrote.
MLB maintained “plaintiffs got exactly what they bargained for: contests determined by baseball players’ actual performance on the field, whatever the contributing factors, predictable or unpredictable, may have been” and added “not one plaintiff claims to have lost any fantasy baseball contest as a result of sign-stealing or otherwise.”
Houston submitted papers to dismiss, citing the Astros’ better performance on the road in 2017: The Astros hit .279 at home with 395 runs and 115 homers at home vs. road stats of .284, 501 runs and 123 homers.