No players punished as MLB releases findings of Red Sox sign-stealing investigation

Major League Baseball has released its findings of the Red Sox investigation stemming from allegations that the team was electronically stealing signs during their 2018 regular season.

BOSTON — Major League Baseball has released its findings of the Red Sox investigation stemming from allegations that the team was electronically stealing signs during their 2018 regular season.

The league, in a 15-page executive summary from Commissioner Rob Manfred, has concluded the following:

  • The Red Sox video replay system operator, J.T. Watkins, used video from the team’s replay room to gather sign sequences from opposing teams, which he gave to players prior to games.
  • Watkins’ actions were, “limited in scope and impact,” as the information given to the players was, “only relevant when the Red Sox had a runner on second base (which was 19.7% of plate appearances league-wide in 2018).”
  • The sign sequences that Watkins had gathered and decoded were from in-game video only a small percentage of the time.
  • The Red Sox front office communicated the MLB’s sign-stealing rules to its non-player staff and, “made commendable efforts toward instilling a culture of compliance in their organization.”
  • “Communication of these violations was episodic and isolated to Watkins and a limited number of Red Sox players only,” the Commissioner said in the report.

The report from Commissioner Manfred concluded that the investigation did not find that former Red Sox manager Alex Cora, the majority of the players, the team’s coaching staff nor its front office knew or should have known about Watkins’ actions.

As a result of the investigation, MLB has handed out the following punishment to the organization.

  • The Red Sox will forfeit their second-round pick in the 2020 MLB Draft
  • J.T. Watkins will be suspended without pay for the 2020 regular season and postseason. He is also prohibited from working as a replay room operator for the 2021 regular season and postseason.
  • Alex Cora will be suspended through the end of the 2020 postseason, though Commissioner Manfred clarified that Cora’s discipline comes as a result of his involvement in the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal in 2017, when he served as the team’s bench coach. No additional discipline was given to Cora as a result of the investigation into the 2018 Red Sox.

Major League Baseball did not conclude that Cora was aware of the sign-stealing campaign carried out by Watkins, however the commissioner did say that Cora, “did not effectively communicate to Red Sox players the sign-stealing rules that were in place for the 2018 season.”

Cora and the Red Sox mutually agreed to part ways back in mid-January following the release of the findings in the 2017 Astros investigation.

No other member of the Red Sox organization will be punished in connection to the team’s investigation, including any players. Commissioner Manfred further explained that decision at the end of his executive summary.

I feel bound by the agreement not to impose discipline on Red Sox players who testified truthfully in this matter. Even if I were not so bound, I do not believe that the Red Sox players who suspected that Watkins used game feeds to decode sign sequences should be held responsible for his conduct. [...] Some players may have suspected that Watkins was using the replay system improperly, but they did not know that with certainty. Others had no idea how Watkins obtained the sign information. Moreover, those who suspected that Watkins was using the replay system largely did not understand that it was a violation of the rules because the evolving rules landscape had not been adequately explained to players.
Rob Manfred, Commissioner of Major League Baseball

The Red Sox organization released the following statement in the moments after the league published its findings.

As an organization, we strive for 100% compliance with the rules. MLB’s investigation concluded that in isolated instances during the 2018 regular season, sign sequences were decoded through the use of live game video rather than through permissible means.
Sam Kennedy, Red Sox President and Chief Executive Officer
MLB acknowledged the front office’s extensive efforts to communicate and enforce the rules and concluded that Alex Cora, the coaching staff, and most of the players did not engage in, nor were they aware of, any violations. Regardless, these rule violations are unacceptable. We apologize to our fans and Major League Baseball, and accept the Commissioner’s ruling.
Sam Kennedy, Red Sox President and Chief Executive Officer

This story is developing and will be updated as more information becomes available.