Ex-Yankees prospect files bizarre lawsuit alleging team ruined his career to protect Derek Jeter

New York Yankees' Derek Jeter is shown in the dugout prior to a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners, Monday, Sept. 12, 2011, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
The Yankees probably didn't need much pushing to stick with Derek Jeter over a .195 hitting in the low minors. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Most minor leaguers respond to the end of their baseball careers by quietly packing up and moving on to the next phase of their life. Former New York Yankees minor leaguer Garrison Lassiter responded by filing a lawsuit demanding $34 million from the organization.

According to Brendan Kuty of NJ.com, Lassiter saw his multi-million dollar lawsuit, filed in December 2018 with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, dismissed in May 2019.

At the center of Lassiter’s allegations: an insidious effort by the Yankees to sabotage his baseball career at the request of superstar shortstop Derek Jeter. Yeah, not hard to see why the error-filled suit didn’t get off the ground.

Lassiter’s civil complaint only gets more bonkers as you dive into the details. It also gets quite sad.

‘Blatanly (sic) obvious’ that Jeter engineered his failure

In his lawsuit, Lassiter cites a number of scouting reports, letters and miscellaneous clips to illustrate his self-evaluation of a promising prospect that failed becoming a successful professional athlete due to no fault of his own.

Rather, he claimed the Yankees, under Jeter’s control, purposefully ruined his shot at making the majors and continued to interfere with his athletic career as he pursued other MLB opportunities, a football career at the University of Miami (Fla.) and a basketball career at the University of Alabama.

In letters sent to the Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds in March 2018, Lassiter says, in all-caps, he “cannot get on the field due to the New York Yankees controlling my career!” and that “its (sic) blatanly (sic) obvious Mr (sic) Derek Jeter controlled the entire organization” when he was a prospect there.

That belief is significantly undercut with a quick trip to Lassiter’s Baseball Reference page, where you can see the best season of his career came when he hit .274/.355/.344 with Class A Charleston. The next year, he hit .195 at Class A Advanced Tampa while Jeter hit .313 in the majors. Unless the Yankees interfered with his stats page as well.

Lassiter was a 27th-round pick for the Yankees in 2008, though one report at the time indicates signability concerns (he was committed to play for UNC in college) caused his draft stock to slip despite observers’ expectations he would fall no lower than the fifth round. That was reflected by his reported $675,000 signing bonus, equivalent to players taken in the second round of the draft that year.

In an email sent to a Yankees executive in 2016, Lassiter blames a position change from his natural shortstop to third base, limited playing time and demotions after positive results as mistakes by the Yankees that ruined his career. It’s worth noting that, according to his reference page, Lassiter’s only demotion came midseason in 2010 when he was hitting .102 in 103 plate appearances for Charleston.

But wait, there’s more.

A combination of Corey Seager and Brandon Weeden

In determining what the Yankees allegedly owed him for wrecking his chance at stardom, Lassiter cites two comparable incomes that he was entitled. Both require some explaining.

The first is Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager, a first-round draft pick out of South Carolina who has since earned Rookie of the Year and All-Star honors.

Lassiter included high school prospect profiles showing him and Seager to be the same height and weight, play the same position and hold similar scouting evaluations out of high school. Lassiter seemed to think that showed the Yankees had ruined a similarly promising career and entitled him to the equivalent of Seager’s career earnings.

The second is former Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden. Like Weeden, Lassiter turned to college football after his Yankees career, walking onto the Miami football team as a quarterback. According to NJ.com, he says he was kicked off the team by head coach Al Golden after a failed attempt to rally the team into making him a starter.

To justify his entitlement to a “guestimate (sic)” of Weeden’s career NFL earnings, Lassiter cited an ESPN ticker headline: “Garrison Lassiter to follow in footsteps of Brandon Weeden albeit at Miami.”

And just for fun, Lassiter threw in one year’s average NBA salary due to a brief stint with the Alabama basketball team.

All of those efforts allegedly sabotaged by the Yankees, lurking in the shadows like a vindictive Scooby Doo villain. In a personal statement, Lassiter alleges that multiple MLB players are “crippling the game” by kicking back some of their salaries to team decision-makers to hold back prospects, a system that appears to fail every year.

How did he even get his lawsuit filed?

In addition to the Yankees lawsuit, Lassiter reportedly filed lawsuits against the Cincinnati Reds for three years of MLB minimum salary and a North Carolina training complex for failing to get him an NFL tryout.

If you’re wondering what kind of lawyer would let a man do this in court, well, remember that old saying about how a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client?

Lassiter reportedly attended law school while pursuing his dream. According to the complaint, that lawsuit was the Massachusetts School of Law in Andover, whose website says it does not require taking the LSAT.

On the whole, this is an extraordinarily sad attempt by a failed athlete who can’t accept the obvious reasons for his missed attempt at stardom. He claims to regularly sleep in his car and has gone broke after spending his signing bonus from the Yankees on education. And, clearly, he does not have anyone close to him with the awareness to tell him this lawsuit was an epically bad idea.

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