Boston Red Sox Lose Draft Pick, Receive Staff Suspensions For 2018 Sign-Stealing

Boston Red Sox Manager Alex Cora returns to the dugout after disputing a call
Maddie Meyer / Getty Images

The Boston Red Sox were handed down penalties for allegedly using electronic equipment to steal signs from their opponents, as Major League Baseball announced the outcome of their months-long investigation into the team on Wednesday afternoon. The Athletic‘s Ken Rosenthal was among the first to report on the outcome on Twitter, saying the Boston will its their second-round pick in the 2020 MLB draft.

The team’s replay operator, J.T. Watkins, has been banned from the game through this year’s playoffs and won’t be able to work as a replay operator during the 2021 season. The only other punishment for the alleged sign-stealing was the banning of former Red Sox manager Alex Cora. However, the league was careful to say he was being banned through the 2020 season, for actions he took when he was with the Houston Astros. The organization fired Cora when the Astros’ punishment for their own purported sign-stealing was dealt earlier this year.

Mike Rosenstein of NJ.com reported the reason for the penalties MLB handed down was because the league determined what the Red Sox did was primarily the brainchild of Watkins. Further, it was found that the front office and manager had very little to do with carrying out the illegal act.

MLB reportedly talked to 65 different witnesses and reviewed thousands of electronic messages. Commissioner Rob Manfred is also said to have conducted personal interviews with several of the witnesses. After completing those interviews, he came to the conclusion that Boston did not cheat during the 2018 playoffs or the 2019 regular season.

Manfred absolved Cora and his coaches from responsibility and found the team’s front office effectively communicated baseball’s sign-stealing rules to non-player staff,” the report concluded.

The new penalties were far less severe than those given to the Houston Astros. The league suspended both manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow for one year, with Houston promptly firing both men. The organization also lost both its first and second-round picks in the 2020 and 2021 drafts and was fined $5 million.

The difference in punishment stems from who MLB feels was responsible for the cheating. In the earlier investigation, Manfred found that Luhnow and other members of the front office didn’t properly educate Astros players on how illegal sign-stealing was. With the Red Sox, officials were said to have done what they were required to do, despite players and their replay official seemingly ignoring the directives given by the team.

Much like the Astros, the league also went out of its way to clarify that no Red Sox players were held responsible.