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Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Articles tagged: Boston Red Sox

MLB knew about video monitor cheating before 2019 season

Major League Baseball has dropped the hammer on the Houston Astros over their elaborate sign-stealing scheme that they implemented during their World Series season in 2017, but let us not be naive enough to think the league had no knowledge of it before conducting a thorough investigation.

MLB announced on Monday that Astros manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow have been suspended for the entire 2020 season after an investigation confirmed what was reported by The Athletic back in November. Houston stole signs with a system in 2017 that utilized a video monitor positioned near the dugout and a camera in center field fixated on the opposing team’s catcher. Alex Cora was determined to be one of the masterminds behind the operation, and Cora’s Boston Red Sox are now being investigated separately.

A separate report from The Athletic that was published last week cited former members of the Red Sox organization who claim the team illegally used the video replay room to assist with stealing signs during the 2018 season. While MLB has come down hard on those involved after The Athletic blew the lid off the story, there are plenty of indications league officials knew what was going on well before that.

Game broadcasts have been shown on TVs inside MLB clubhouses for years, but it wasn’t until the 2019 season that the league implemented a mandatory eight-second delay for those video feeds to prevent teams from using them to relay sign information. The delay was used for all TV screens in the clubhouse except the replay monitor, which MLB began monitoring during games with league personnel beginning in the 2018 postseason.

MLB introduced replay review in 2014, so why do you suppose they waiting until late in the 2018 season to take steps to prevent teams from using the replay monitor to assist with stealing signs? They obviously knew what was going on.

The findings that were released by the league on Monday referred to the Nov. 12 story in The Athletic numerous times, but MLB knew about at least some of this before the story was published. According to a previous report from Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle, MLB instructed people monitoring the video replay screen at Minute Maid Park to listen for banging sounds early in the 2019 season.

Obviously, it’s a terrible look for MLB for both its 2017 and 2018 World Series champions to be implicated in cheating scandals. Had it not been for the terrific investigative reporting by The Athletic, the league would have been content to sweep everything under the rug and continue to search for ways to counter sign stealing.

In hindsight, the way the Astros were stealing signs was so blatantly obvious it was almost insulting. Time will tell if the Red Sox were guilty of similar tactics, but we know enough now to conclude MLB knew a lot more than it would like fans to believe.

Why Mookie Betts avoiding arbitration with Red Sox could be beneficial

Mookie Betts

The Red Sox agreed to a record one-year contract with Mookie Betts on Friday to avoid having to go through the arbitration process, and many believe they will now either trade the star outfielder or let him walk as a free agent following the 2020 season. However, the fact that the two sides came to an agreement should be viewed as a positive for Boston’s chances of keeping Betts long term.

Betts and the Red Sox agreed to a one-year, $27 million deal. The previous record for an arbitration-eligible player was the $26 million Nolan Arenado got from the Colorado Rockies. the team later signed him to a long-term extension. Could the same happen with Betts in Boston? At the very least, that seems more likely now that the two sides avoided an arbitration hearing.

In an arbitration hearing, a player’s agent argues why his client deserves to be paid X amount. The team’s job is to counter that a player they supposedly want to keep on their roster is worth less, and that is where things get ugly. By not getting to that point, Betts and the Red Sox don’t have to air out any dirty laundry, so to speak.

Take, for example, the arbitration hearing Trevor Bauer had with the Cleveland Indians last year. The right-hander ended up being paid $13 million for the 2019 season, but the hearing damaged his relationship with the team. After Bauer won the hearing against the Indians for the second consecutive year, he unloaded on the team for what he called “character assassination.”

The Indians later traded Bauer to the Cincinnati Reds, and he said he was much happier after the move. While Cleveland probably couldn’t afford to keep Bauer anyway, it seemed like there was no salvaging the relationship after the arbitration mess.

Betts has been the subject of trade rumors this offseason, and the Red Sox could still decide to go that route. Either way, agreeing to a record contract before arbitration eliminated the need for them to strap on the boxing gloves. That should be viewed as a win for Boston’s brass.

MLB launching investigation into Red Sox sign-stealing allegations

Another bombshell report has accused a Major League Baseball team of using electronics to steal signs from opponents, and the league is planning to look into the allegations.

MLB issued a statement on Tuesday confirming that an investigation will begin after former members of the Boston Red Sox organization told the Athletic the team illegally used the video replay room to assist with stealing signs during the 2018 season.

As MLB stated, the league issued a memo in September 2017 informing teams that future violations involving the use of electronic equipment to steal signs would be taken seriously. That memo was issued in part because the Red Sox were found to have used an Apple Watch to assist with sign stealing, so they could be viewed as repeat offenders.

The allegations against the Red Sox do not sound quite as troubling as everything that has come out about the Houston Astros, and the report from The Athletic states that other teams engaged in the same type of activity. The system reportedly involved using the video replay room, which was established after after MLB introduced replay review in 2014, to decode signals from opponents. A player would relay the information to the dugout, where it was passed to a baserunner and then secretly relayed to the hitter.

Many feel that is a lot less egregious and far more similar to “old school” sign stealing than the trash can banging system the Astros implemented, but the Red Sox could still face serious disciplinary action.

Report: Red Sox illegally used video replay room to help steal signs in 2018

Alex Cora

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.

Dodgers reportedly discussing Mookie Betts trade with Red Sox

Mookie Betts

The Boston Red Sox appear to be willing to trade star players this offseason, and the Los Angeles Dodgers are interested in acquiring one of them.

The Dodgers have had preliminary talks with the Red Sox about a potential Mookie Betts trade, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports. LA is still hoping to land star shortstop Francisco Lindor from the Cleveland Indians, but they could view Betts as a backup plan if those talks don’t materialize.

Nightengale notes that the Red Sox are much more willing to trade Betts than the Indians are to trade Lindor, so it’s possible the discussions could heat up in the coming days. The Red Sox are looking to trim payroll to get below the $208 million luxury tax threshold for 2020, and Betts is projected to earn a record arbitration salary of at least $27 million and possibly as much as $30 million.

The Red Sox and Dodgers have a history of making blockbuster trades with one another, as Boston sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett to LA in a massive salary dump deal back in 2012.

Some teams are reportedly “highly skeptical” that the Red Sox will trade Betts, who won the American League MVP Award in 2018. He’s one of the best all-around players in baseball and the type of talent teams like Boston typically build around, but a package that includes top prospects could inspire them to deal him.

In addition to discussing potential Betts deals, the Red Sox have also been shopping starting pitcher David Price to multiple teams. Price’s salary for 2020 is around the same as Betts’ is expected to be. Fans would be far more receptive to a Price trade than a Betts trade, though the return would not be nearly as great.

Red Sox have reportedly discussed David Price trade with at least five teams

David Price

There has been speculation for months that the Boston Red Sox could try to trade Mookie Betts this winter in order to help them get under the luxury tax threshold, but it may actually be David Price who ends up in another uniform to start the 2020 season.

The Red Sox have had discussions about a Price trade with at least five teams, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports. Those clubs include the Los Angeles Angels, San Diego Padres, Chicago White Sox, St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds. Price has three years and $96 million remaining on his contract, but trading the left-hander may have become easier over the past week.

As one MLB executive told Feinsand, the contracts that Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg signed may have strengthened Boston’s stance. Cole got a record $324 million over nine years from the New York Yankees, and the Washington Nationals re-signed Strasburg with a seven-year, $245 million deal. While Price has not pitched at the level those two aces have performed at in recent seasons, his $32 million salary “doesn’t look so crazy” anymore, according to the exec Feinsand spoke with.

Some believe the Red Sox will have to attach a starting-caliber player like Andrew Benintendi to get a team to agree to take on Price’s contract, but a source told Feinsand that is not going to happen. It seems more likely that Boston would eat some of Price’s deal before trading Benintendi, who had a down year in 2019 but looked like a budding star before that.

Although he finally exorcised his demons and pitched well in the postseason two years ago, Price has never really seemed like a fit in Boston. He has clashed with the local media and had a highly-publicized feud with Hall of Famer and Red Sox broadcaster Dennis Eckersley. While Price chose not to opt out of his contract before last season, that was almost certainly only about money.

Price went 7-5 with a 4.28 ERA in his fourth season with the Red Sox last year. He has also battled same elbow issues, but the amount of interest in him indicates teams are not concerned about that.

Look: Boston newspaper from 2000 hilariously rips ‘Loserville’ sports teams

Bill Belichick

The four major Boston-area sports teams have enjoyed tremendous success over the past two decades, but it was not always championship trophies and MVP awards for the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins. If you dig up an old newspaper from the turn of the century, you might find what many would consider a surreal reminder of that.

Darren Rovell tweeted a photo on Thursday that showed the cover of the sports section in The Patriot Ledger — a publication in Quincy, Mass. — from Dec. 12, 2000. It featured cartoon sketches of Patriots coach Bill Belichick, former Celtics coach Rick Pitino, former Bruins coach Mike Keenan and ex-Red Sox manager Jimy Williams. The headline read “Welcome to LOSERVILLE.”

As Rovell notes, things have changed quite dramatically since then. The teams have combined for 12 championships, with the Patriots winning six of those. The cartoon featured a bubble coming from Belichick that said, “I should have stayed with the Jets,” but something tells us the future Hall of Famer is happy with his decision (even if he is dealing with another annoying controvery).

At the time the paper was published, the Red Sox — still in a historic World Series drought — had missed the playoffs. The Bruins and Celtics were also on their way to missing the postseason, with the Celtics not having been to the playoffs in five years. The Patriots went 5-11 that season before winning their first title the following year.

Talk about your all-time turnarounds.

H/T Wardo