MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred predictably botched the investigation into the Red Sox illegally stealing signs, leaving Houston Astros fans seething but unsurprised.
The news we’ve all been waiting for finally came on Wednesday. MLB released the commissioner’s report from his investigation into allegations that the Boston Red Sox illegally stole signs during the 2018 season. Predictably, the so-called punishment was laughably light and was nothing more than a joke when compared to the much harsher penalties imposed on the Houston Astros.
A brief history is that the Astros were found to have used in-game video feeds to steal and decode signs between opposing teams’ pitchers and catchers during the 2017 season and early in 2018. They then communicated the incoming pitch selection to the batter at the plate in real time. This was a clear violation of league rules, so the Astros certainly deserved to be punished.
They were fined $5 million and lost their first and second round draft picks in both the 2020 and 2021 amateur drafts. Manager AJ Hinch and GM Jeff Luhnow were suspended for one year, and then fired by owner Jim Crane immediately after the report was released, despite the report indicating that neither was an active participant or encouraged the sign stealing.
The Red Sox, according to the commissioner’s report, committed less egregious violations. Apparently the sole perpetrator was the team’s video replay operator, J.T. Watkins, who on limited occasions used the in-game feed to decode signs and have them relayed to a runner on second base, who would then communicate the pitch selection to the batter.
Watkins was the only individual punished in this instance. Former Red Sox manager Alex Cora was suspended for the 2020 season as a result of his role in the Astros’ sign stealing scheme, as he was the club’s bench coach in 2017 before becoming Red Sox manager in 2018. But he escaped additional punishment as the report determined he did not know and had no reason to know of what Watkins was doing.
The punishment doled out to the Red Sox is limited to only the loss of a second round draft pick in 2020. There is no fine and no further loss of picks, and Watkins was only suspended for the 2020 season and prohibited from working in the replay room in 2021. No one was fired or otherwise punished for these violations.
There’s no shortage of issues with this report, especially when compared to the Astros report. They all lead to the inevitable conclusion that this could and should have been handled differently by Commissioner Rob Manfred.