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Lawsuit against Red Sox, Astros, and MLB dismissed

Baseball season is on hold indefinitely during the coronavirus pandemic.
Baseball season is on hold indefinitely during the coronavirus pandemic.Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

A class-action lawsuit filed in January by five fantasy sports bettors against Major League Baseball, the Red Sox, and the Houston Astros was dismissed by a New York City judge on Friday.

The lawsuit was based on the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal in 2017, and the alleged Red Sox cheating scandal in 2018. The plaintiffs sought to recover losses sustained by DraftKings fantasy sports participants who did not realize they were wagering on teams that may have been cheating by using electronic devices to aid in stealing opponents’ signs.

"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,” Manhattan Federal Judge Jed Rakoff wrote in his 32-page court decision document. "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.”

Sign stealing is not against MLB rules, but using electronics to steal signs is a violation. The five men who filed the lawsuit alleged fraud, negligence, unjust enrichment, and consumer protection violations against all four defendants, according to Rakoff’s ruling.

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Rakoff wrote that the plaintiffs’ theories relating to how the Sox, Astros, and the league benefited at the plaintiffs’ expense were all flawed.

"In short,” Rakoff concluded, "the connection between the alleged harm plaintiffs suffered and defendants’ conduct is simply too attenuated to support any of plaintiffs’ claims for relief. While the verbose, rhetorical, and largely conclusory complaint does manage to plausibly allege a few misrepresentations by defendants, these statements, which are unrelated to fantasy baseball, do not plausibly support plaintiffs’ claims of reliance.”

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There still hasn’t been official confirmation by MLB of The Athletic’s report that the Red Sox cheated in 2018 under former manager Alex Cora by using electronics to steal signs. After completing his report on the Astros in January, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said he would have a decision on Cora — deemed as one of the architects in the Astros’ illegal sign-stealing when he was their bench coach — once an investigation into the Red Sox was finished.

Manfred said on March 26 during an ESPN interview that the Red Sox investigation was complete, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he hasn’t had time to write a report on the league’s decision. In 2017, the Sox were fined in 2017 for their use of an Apple Watch as part of a sign-stealing scheme.

A similar suit was filed in January by a Massachusetts man, although Rakoff consolidated the cases for pretrail and case management purposes.

Bob Hohler of the Globe staff contributed.


Julian McWilliams can be reached at julian.mcwilliams@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @byJulianMack