There is still no baseball on the field, but it was a busy week for the Boston Red Sox. On Wednesday, MLB closed its investigation into sign-stealing allegations against the Red Sox.
While the Houston Astros were dragged through the coals, and deservedly so, the Red Sox received a far more mild penalty after MLB’s investigation couldn’t prove any serious wrongdoing.
The biggest punishment Boston received as the suspension of scout and replay coordinator J.T. Watkins, who has been suspended without pay for the 2020 season and won’t be allowed to return to his old job in 2021. Watkins denied any wrongdoing, but the MLB investigation found that he accessed game feeds in the team’s replay room and passed along “sign sequence information” to Red Sox players.
Doing so is a violation of MLB rules, though Commissioner Rob Manfred found the advantage was limited to a few Red Sox players and was only useful when players on second base.
“Unlike the Houston Astros’ 2017 conduct,” Manfred wrote in his report, “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.”
Perhaps more importantly, Manfred declared that former manager Alex Cora had no knowledge of what Watkins was doing. The Commissioner added that the Red Sox front office and the team’s coaching staff had no reason to know about Watkins’ wrongdoing.
Outside of Watkins being suspended, the only other discipline the Red Sox will face is losing their second-round pick in this year’s draft.
Cora, meanwhile, has been banned for the 2020 season. However, Manfred’s report indicated that Cora’s punishment was related to his role in Houston’s sign-stealing scandal.
Cora served as the bench coach of the Astros in 2017 and was one of the ring leaders of their sign-stealing operation. His one-year suspension stems only from his actions in Houston. Of course, Cora was fired by the Red Sox after MLB’s report on the Astros was released, making his suspension for 2020 somewhat redundant.
Soon after MLB released its investigation into the Red Sox, the team officially removed the interim tag on manager Ron Roenicke. Boston named Roenicke the interim manager after Cora was fired and pledged to keep that tag in place until the investigation was finished. Assuming there is a 2020 season, Roenicke will be the Red Sox manager for it.
However, Roenicke is not under contract beyond the 2020 season. With Cora not facing any punishment beyond a suspension for the 2020 season, there is already speculation that the Red Sox could re-hire Cora in 2021.
Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom tried to close the door on such a possibility, although not everyone is convinced there won’t be a Cora-Red Sox reunion in 2021.
“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 what may or may not have occurred in Boston, and that is still the case,” said Bloom. “All of the reasons that we parted ways then are still the case.”
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