Red Sox Punished for Sign-Stealing Scandal

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Major League Baseball has now punished two championship teams for stealing opponents’ signs during games.

The Boston Red Sox joined the Houston Astros on Wednesday, as the MLB released the findings of its investigation into the Red Sox during their 2018 World Series season. The investigation, which found that the Red Sox only cheated during their team-record 108-win regular season, led to the Red Sox losing their second-round draft pick this year. J.T. Watkins, the team’s video replay system operator, has been suspended without pay through the 2020 postseason.

According to ESPN, Watkins denied the allegations that he “utilized the game feeds in the replay room, in violation of MLB regulations, to revise sign sequence information that he had permissibly provided to players prior to the game.”

After his one-year suspension, Watkins can’t serve as a replay-room operator for the 2021 season and postseason. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said 11 witnesses came forward to say that the 30-year-old Watkins, who played in the Red Sox system until 2015, would update sign sequence information during the game. According to Sports Illustrated, the players told MLB that they didn’t know obtaining and using such information was against the rules.

“Unlike the Houston Astros’ 2017 conduct, in which players communicated to the batter from the dugout area in real time the precise type of pitch about to be thrown, Watkins’ conduct, by its very nature, was far more limited in scope and impact,” MLB’s report said, noting that the information was only provided to a limited group of players.

“I want to be very clear that any violation of Major League Baseball’s rules is unacceptable,” Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy said of the allegations, which came to light in a January article by The Athletic. “Earlier this afternoon, [owner] John Henry and [chairman] Tom Werner had the opportunity to address commissioner Rob Manfred and the 29 other Major League Baseball owners on a call, and John and Tom took full responsibility and apologized to those guys for what happened.”

Related content: MLB’s Sign-Stealing Scandal Widens, Red Sox Fire Cora

Alex Cora was also suspended Wednesday through the 2020 postseason for his conduct as the Astros’ bench coach in their 2017 title season. Cora managed the Red Sox in 2018 and 2019 before they parted ways in January. MLB’s investigation determined that Cora wasn’t aware of Watkins’ actions with the Red Sox.

“I am grateful for the Commissioner’s thoughtful and thorough investigation relating to my conduct as Red Sox manager,” Cora said in a statement. “I also take full responsibility for the role I played, along with others, in the Astros’ violations of MLB rules in 2017. The collective conduct of the Astros’ organization in 2017 was unacceptable, and I respect and accept the Commissioner’s discipline for my past actions.”

The Red Sox made Cora’s replacement permanent Wednesday, removing the interim tag from manager Ron Roenicke.

No players have been punished in either of the sign-stealing scandals. Houston’s penalties came down in January, with general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch each being suspended through the 2020 postseason. The Astros were also hit with a $5 million fine and forfeit their first- and second-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021. The Astros had been using outfield cameras to steal catchers’ signs and relay them to the batter by banging a trash can in the dugout.

Related content: Astros Fire Manager, GM Following MLB’s Suspensions

Related content: Astros Used Cameras to Steal Signs

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