Report: Red Sox illegally used video replay room to help steal signs in 2018
Major League Baseball is taking steps this offseason to try to conquer its growing problem with sign stealing, and the Houston Astros are not the only team that influenced the change.
The Boston Red Sox have also been linked to sign-stealing tactics over the past two years, and a new report from Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic details one of the illegal methods the team allegedly used during the 2018 season. The tactic reportedly was used after the Red Sox were punished in September 2017 for using a Fitbit to help steal signs. According to three people who were with the Red Sox during their World Series season in 2018, the method involved the use of the video replay room that was established after MLB introduced replay review in 2014.
According to the report, players visited the replay room during games in the regular season to study the sign sequence opposing teams were using. The room is located just steps from the dugout at Fenway Park, and any information that was attained was relayed to someone in the dugout, then to a baserunner on first or second base, and finally to the hitter. The system was not used during the postseason, as MLB began monitoring replay rooms with on-site personnel at that point.
In part because of the Red Sox’s violation in 2017, MLB sent a memo to all teams prior to the 2018 season emphasizing rules about sign stealing. The memo made it clear that replay rooms could not be used to assist in such practices.
“It’s cheating,” one member of the 2018 Red Sox told The Athletic. “Because if you’re using a camera to zoom in on the crotch of the catcher, to break down the sign system, and then take that information and give it out to the runner, then he doesn’t have to steal it.”
Many across baseball believe the method used by the Red Sox was less egregious than the Houston Astros’ system, which involved decoding signs and banging a trash can to tip off the hitter. Still, the use of the replay room or any other electronic means to help steal signs was clearly prohibited.
The Red Sox likely were not the only team using the replay room to help steal signs. Sources told The Athletic the New York Yankees engaged in a similar practice as far back as 2015.
“Oftentimes it takes a player to show up and be like, ‘You f—ing morons, you’re not doing this?'” one American League executive said.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora will have more questions to answer now in the wake of the latest sign-stealing report, as he was with the Astros before being hired by Boston. Houston still has not been disciplined by MLB for the illegal system they used, and that is likely because the issue is such a wide-ranging one.
A report from this week outlined some of the ways MLB is trying to reduce sign stealing, and you can see why that has become a priority for the league. With all the technology that is available now during games, stealing signs is no longer just an “old school” part of the game. It’s become a major problem.