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Lawsuit from fan alleges MLB teams engaged in corruption in sign-stealing scandal

(Reuters) - Major League Baseball (MLB) teams secretly distorted player statistics and deprived fans of an “honest fantasy baseball competition,” a lawsuit filed by a fan alleges in the fallout to a sign-stealing scandal involving the Houston Astros and the Boston Red Sox.

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The lawsuit, which named MLB, the Houston Astros and the Boston Red Sox as defendants, was filed in a Manhattan federal court on behalf of all fans who participated in DraftKings’ fantasy baseball contests, which plaintiff Kristopher Olson claimed were tainted by the sign-stealing scandal.

“At the very least, all of DraftKings’ fantasy baseball contests from early in the 2017 baseball season through the end of the 2018 regular season and into the 2019 season, were tainted by cheating and compromised, at the expense of DraftKings’ contestants,” according to the filing on Thursday.

DraftKings’ fantasy sports and betting operations are big business; it said in December it would go public this year in a deal putting its value at $3.3 billion.

The complaint claimed MLB has actively promoted fantasy baseball competition through its equity stake in fantasy sports and gambling company DraftKings.

According to MLB, the sign-stealing scheme evolved during Astros’ World Series-winning 2017 season.

The scandal has already seen Carlos Beltran’s first season as manager of the New York Mets ending before it even began.

Beltran, who played for Houston Astros in 2017, was implicated in MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s findings last week that the team stole pitching signs from opposing catchers.

According to Manfred’s report, Beltran was among a group of players who discussed that Astros could improve a system that was already in place to decode opposing teams’ signs and communicate the signs to the batter.

Beltran became the third manager to lose his job as a result of the cheating scandal. The Astros fired AJ Hinch after the report surfaced last week while Alex Cora, who was Houston’s bench coach in 2017, was dismissed by the Boston Red Sox.

Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru. Editing by Gerry Doyle

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