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Red Sox Lose Draft Pick, Replay Operator Suspended Following MLB Investigation into Sign Stealing

The Boston Red Sox lost their 2020 second-round draft pick, but emerged otherwise largely unscathed after Major League Baseball wrapped up its investigations into allegations that the team stole signs during the 2018 season.

An MLB investigation found that a video replay operator violated MLB rules, but that the incident didn’t tarnish the Boston Red Sox 2018 World Series championship. (Image: Rob Tringali/MLB/Getty)

MLB also suspended Red Sox video replay system operator J.T. Watkins without pay through the 2020 postseason for his role in a scheme to update sign sequence information during games.

Red Sox Commit to Roenicke as Manager

The investigation didn’t implicate former Red Sox manager Alex Cora. However, MLB suspended Cora through the end of the 2020 postseason for his conduct as the bench coach for the Houston Astros in the 2017 season.

The Red Sox made it clear on Wednesday that they are still moving on from Cora. Boston removed the interim qualifier from manager Ron Roenicke’s title, and chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom indicated that the new investigation wouldn’t change Cora’s status with the team.

“We said at the time we parted ways with Alex, we were clear that was the result of his role in what happened with the Astros and everything that happened with the investigation over there revealed and had nothing to do with what may or may not have occurred in Boston, and that is still the case,” Bloom told reporters. “All of the reasons that we parted ways then are still the case.”

The MLB investigation found that Watkins used game feeds from the replay room “to revise sign sequence information that he had permissibly provided to players prior to the game.” That meant that even if opposing teams had changed their signs with a runner on second base from what they had used in previous games, Watkins was able to update those sequences to give the Red Sox an edge.

Report: Scheme Limited in Scope, Impact

Only a limited number of players apparently knew of Watkins’ scheme, and MLB found no evidence that Cora or any other Red Sox officials participated. The techniques being used were also far less blatant and impactful than those used by the Astros.

“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 commissioner Rob Manfred wrote in his report. “The information was only relevant when the Red Sox had a runner on second base (which was 19.7% of plate appearances leaguewide in 2018), 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.”

Red Sox officials apologized for the violation of MLB rules, while also noting that the report downplays the significance of what occurred to an extent that shouldn’t tarnish the team’s 2018 World Series title.

“It is clear from the report that these isolated occurrences in 2018 happened only during the regular season,” Red Sox owner John Henry wrote in an email to the Boston Globe. “The report references how often those instances called into question had an opportunity to take place, and within the context of the overall season, all one has to do is the math to see the net potential result. But I’ll let others do the math.”