Sports News

Red Sox escape with minor penalties for sign-stealing

(Reuters) - The Boston Red Sox will forfeit a second-round selection in this year’s amateur draft, and a team video operator will be suspended for breaking video rules, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred announced on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: Major League Baseball - New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox - London Stadium, London, Britain - June 30, 2019 Boston Red Sox head coach Alex Cora looks on during the match REUTERS/Peter Cziborra

Manfred said an investigation had identified improper use of the video replay room by the team in 2018, but cleared then-manager Alex Cora, who was found to have been unaware of the matter.

Cora was previously implicated in a sign-stealing scandal while a bench coach with the Houston Astros in 2017, which was deemed far more egregious than the Red Sox matter.

He will be suspended until the end of the 2020 postseason for his conduct with the Astros in 2017, Manfred announced at the same time as he handed down his findings on the Red Sox breach.

“I find that J.T. Watkins, the Red Sox video replay system operator, on at least some occasions during the 2018 regular season, 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,” Manfred wrote.

“I find that 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’s conduct, by its very nature, was far more limited in scope and impact.

“The information was only relevant when the Red Sox had a runner on second base and Watkins communicated sign sequences in a manner that indicated that he had decoded them from the in-game feed in only a small percentage of those occurrences.”

In clearing Cora, Manfred did not find that the then-manager and most of the players and coaching staff should have known of the matter.

“Communication of these violations was episodic and isolated to Watkins and a limited number of Red Sox players only,” he wrote.

“I find that the Red Sox front office consistently communicated MLB’s sign-stealing rules to non-player staff and made commendable efforts toward instilling a culture of compliance in their organization.”

In imposing the penalties he said the club must nonetheless be held accountable despite the limited nature of the matter.

As well as losing a draft pick, Watkins would be suspended for the 2020 season and banned from working in a replay room in 2021.

“No other Red Sox personnel will be disciplined,” the report said.

Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by David Gregorio