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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.

Go deeper

5 hours ago - World

Biden seeks to reboot U.S. sanctions policy

Sanctions increased under Obama and dramatically under Trump. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

The Biden administration is rethinking the U.S. approach to sanctions after four years of Donald Trump imposing and escalating them.

The big picture: Sanctions are among the most powerful tools the U.S. has to influence its adversaries’ behavior without using force. But they frequently fail to bring down regimes or moderate their behavior, and they can increase the suffering of civilians and resentment of the U.S.

5 hours ago - World

Merkel's farewell spoiled by Poland crisis at EU summit

One last awkward EU "family photo." Photo: John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

Angela Merkel took up her vaunted mantle as Europe's crisis manager for what could be the last time tonight, as she urged the EU to find compromise in its showdown with Poland.

Why it matters: The European Commission has threatened to withhold over $40 billion in pandemic recovery funds after Poland's constitutional tribunal — stacked with loyalists from the ruling right-wing populist party — rejected the principle that EU law has primacy over national law.

Republicans who put it all on the line

Rep. Nancy Mace speaks with reporters after voting to hold Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

A small contingent of House Republicans risked their political futures on Thursday, they say, in the name of constitutional responsibility.

Why it matters: The nine Republicans who voted to hold former Trump aide Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress are now in peril of becoming political pariahs. They've opened themselves up to potential primary challengers and public attacks from their party's kingmaker — former President Trump.