BOSTON (CBS) — At long last, Major League Baseball has concluded its investigation into the 2018 Boston Red Sox, finding that the team’s video replay operator was the main culprit in a sign-stealing scandal — not then-manager Alex Cora.
MLB has banned replay operator J.T. Watkins through the 2020 playoffs as part of their punishment, which also included docking the Red Sox a 2020 second-round pick. The Athletic’s Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal reported the news.
“The club must be held accountable, particularly since the club may have benefited from Watkins’ conduct,” Manfred said in the report.
Manfred also differentiated the offenses committed by the Red Sox and the 2017 Houston Astros.
“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,” Manfred said. “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.”
The league did not find that Boston’s impermissible conduct continued during the 2018 postseason or 2019 regular season.
In addition to being banned for 2020, Watkins is also prohibited from serving as a replay room operator for the 2021 regular season and postseason. The 30-year-old was a 10th round pick by the Red Sox in 2012 after graduating from West Point.
Cora is also banned through the 2020 playoffs, but that is for his conduct with the Astros during the 2017 season. MLB did not add any additional discipline for Cora based on the Red Sox’ transgressions.
“I do not find that then-Manager Alex Cora, the Red Sox coaching staff, the Red Sox front office, or most of the players on the 2018 Red Sox knew or should have known that Watkins was utilizing in-game video to update the information that he had learned from his pregame analysis,” Manfred wrote. “Communication of these violations was episodic and isolated to Watkins and a limited number of Red Sox players only.”
MLB’s investigation into the Red Sox started all the way back on Jan. 7 after following their investigation into the 2017 Houston Astros, which outed then-Houston bench coach Alex Cora as the mastermind behind the scheme. The Red Sox and Cora parted ways one day after MLB released their findings on the Astros.
Cora’s bench coach in Boston, Ron Roenicke, took over as the team’s interim manager just ahead of spring training. He will soon lose that interim tag for the 2020 season.
Following their investigation into the Astros, MLB suspended Houston manager A.J. Hinch and GM Jeff Luhnow for the 2020 season and also docked the team multiple first- and second-round draft picks after they were found to have an elaborate scheme to relay stolen signs in 2017. Shortly after those punishments were handed out, Hinch and Luhnow were fired by the Astros.