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#pounditSunday, August 9, 2020

Red Sox lose draft pick, video replay operator JT Watkins suspended over sign-stealing scheme

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The Boston Red Sox have received their punishment from Major League Baseball over their own sign-stealing scandal.

According to Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic, MLB found that Boston’s video replay system operator, J.T. Watkins, was the primary culprit. Watkins was found to have illegally used game feeds in the replay room to aid some players during the 2018 season. As a result, the Red Sox have been stripped of a second-round pick in 2020.

Former Red Sox manager Alex Cora has been banned through the 2020 postseason as well, but strictly for his conduct as bench coach of the Houston Astros in 2017. It was previously found that Cora was one of the major masterminds behind Houston’s more elaborate and widespread sign-stealing system.

Commissioner Rob Manfred absolved Cora, his coaches, the team’s front office, and the majority of players of responsibility in Boston’s scheme.

“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.”

The report states that Watkins denied all wrongdoing. He will be suspended without pay for the 2020 season and banned from serving as a replay room coordinator in 2021.

No players will be punished, and those that used the system were not identified. We can guess the identity of one of them based on some public comments made about the system.

The investigation did find that the Red Sox did not use illegal methods during the 2018 playoffs, when they won the World Series. The conduct also stopped in 2019.

Several players publicly spoke out against the investigation and suggested that nothing illegal had gone on with regard to both themselves and their coaches. While it’s clear the investigation was warranted, it seems they may not have been wrong, as most players and the entire coaching staff were found to have done nothing wrong. That’s in stark contrast to what happened with the Houston Astros, and why Boston’s punishment was so much lighter.

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