Apr 23, 2020 - Sports

MLB pins Red Sox sign-stealing scheme on video replay staffer

A 2018 World Series sign.
Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has suspended Red Sox video replay system operator J.T. Watkins for the 2020 season and docked Boston a second-round pick, following an investigation into 2018 sign-stealing allegations,

Why it matters: After months of speculation regarding the severity of Boston's wrongdoings and expected punishments, MLB found the Red Sox scheme far less devious than the Astros' scheme, holding just one low-level staffer responsible for the whole thing.

  • Manfred also suspended former Red Sox manager Alex Cora through the 2020 postseason, though that was exclusively for his role as the Astros bench coach in 2017, The Athletic reports.

What they're saying: Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy issued a statement, saying "MLB acknowledged the front office's extensive efforts to communicate and enforce the rules and concluded that Alex Cora, the coaching staff, and most of the players did not engage in, nor were they aware of, any violations."

  • According to Manfred, many players told investigators that "they were unaware that in-game sign decoding from the replay station had been prohibited in 2018 and 2019."
  • That's despite the now-famous Apple Watch incident of 2017, which Manfred used as the impetus to create guidelines regarding the legal use of technology during games.
  • In other words, those players either lied to investigators or kept their headphones on during the front office's aforementioned "extensive efforts to communicate and enforce the rules." Either way, not a great look.

The bottom line: With everyone's attention on coronavirus, MLB was glad to have the Astros scandal mostly in the rearview, but the shadow of an unfinished investigation into the Red Sox still hung over the league.

  • By releasing his findings on the eve of the NFL draft, Manfred effectively tried to bury what he hopes is the final chapter of the worst scandal to hit baseball since the steroid era.
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