Jan 8, 2020

MLB sign-stealing scandal broadens with 2018 Red Sox accusations

Kendall Baker, author of Sports

Red Sox manager Alex Cora. Photo: Adam Glanzman/MLB via Getty Images

With MLB nearing a decision on the Astros front, the sign-stealing controversy has broadened, with anonymous team sources telling The Athletic that the Red Sox "cheated" during their 2018 World Series championship season.

How it worked: Players allegedly visited the video replay room — a room near the dugout meant to help managers decide whether to challenge a call — to steal signs and relay them to the dugout. That information was then shared with a baserunner, who would use body movements to communicate with the batter.

Context: The Red Sox and Yankees were punished for a similar misuse of the replay room in 2017, but starting in 2018, MLB strictly prohibited the use of the replay room to steal signs.

Worth noting: Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who served as the Houston Astros bench coach in 2017, has now been caught in the middle of both sign-stealing scandals this offseason.

  • The Astros used a camera to help steal signs during their 2017 championship season, pitcher Mike Fiers and three other unnamed former Astros claimed in November.

What they're saying: "It's cheating," one person who was with the 2018 Red Sox told The Athletic. "Because if you're using a camera to zoom in on the crotch of the catcher, to break down the sign system, and then take that information and give it out to the runner, then he doesn't have to steal it."

The big picture: Baseball's steroids scandal was far uglier than this. There's just something about athletes sneakily sticking syringes in their butts that makes your jaw drop, while teams using illegal cameras and video feeds feels slightly less jarring and easier to swallow.

  • Yes, but: The fallout could look quite similar. "Judgments on players and teams are being reconsidered. The legitimacy of championships is being questioned. The world has become a little more cynical, and what used to be a simple escapist activity feels more complicated," writes LA Times' Dylan Hernandez.

The bottom line: Both the 2017 and 2018 World Series champions may have cheated — a black eye for a league that already has some transparency concerns, and an infuriating development for the Yankees and Dodgers, who were eliminated from the playoffs by both teams (Dodgers in the World Series both times).

Go deeper: MLB vs. sign stealing

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