Major League Baseball on Wednesday stripped the Boston Red Sox of a draft pick for using cameras to steal signs — but declared that the team’s cheating “was far more limited in scope and impact” than the 2017 Houston Astros.
The Red Sox, who won the World Series in 2018, were docked a second-round draft pick over actions by J.T. Watkins, the Red Sox video replay system operator, according to a report by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred.
Teams are permitted to use video footage to decode signs being flashed by an opposing catcher to their pitchers after the game. That information, useful when the team at bat had a runner at second base, is regularly shared with players in pre-game meetings.
But MLB clubs are strictly prohibited from using in-game footage to do such realtime code breaking as the game is being played.
MLB investigators found that “players said that on at least some occasions, they suspected or had indications that Watkins may have revised the sign sequence information that he had provided to players prior to the game through his review of the game feed in the replay room,” according to Manfred.
“They largely based their belief on the fact that Watkins on occasion provided different sign sequence information during the game than he had offered prior to the game, and, based on the circumstances of the communication, they assumed that the revised information came from his review of in-game video.”
Former Red Sox manager Alex Cora was suspended for one year, based on his work as a bench coach when he was with the 2017 champion Astros, Manfred also announced on Wednesday.
The Astros were caught using a video feed at the team’s home stadium, Minute Maid Park, to tip off Houston batters of the pitch type that was about to be thrown. Signals were relayed to hitters by someone banging on a trash can.
Boston’s transgressions did not rise to Houston’s level of cheating, MLB said. Watkins’ ill-gotten information would only have been valuable to the Red Sox when a Boston runner was at second base and would have a clear view of a catcher’s signals.
“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,” according to Manfred.
This is a developing story, refresh here for updates