Red Sox video operator banned over sign-stealing: MLB

Los Angeles (AFP) –


A video replay operator for the Boston Red Sox was suspended and the team was docked a draft pick as Major League Baseball announced the findings of its investigation into illegal sign-stealing involving the club on Wednesday.

After an exhaustive probe into allegations of wrongdoing by the Red Sox in 2018, MLB investigators concluded that the burden of wrongdoing fell largely on the team's video replay system operator, J.T. Watkins.

Watkins has been suspended for the remainder of the 2020 season while the team was also stripped of a draft pick.

Watkins has also been banned from working in the replay room for the 2021 season.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said Watkins had "at least on some occasions" used replays to assist players attempting to decode pitching signals.

Former manager Alex Cora, who had been fired by the Red Sox in January following revelations of his involvement in the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal, has been suspended for the remainder of the 2020 season.

The punishments against the Red Sox are far less severe than those levied against the Astros.

The Astros were fined $5 million (4.6 million euros) and saw general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch suspended and then fired by the team in January after MLB investigators uncovered evidence of systematic cheating during their 2017 World Series-winning season.

Cora was heavily implicated in the Astros scandal, when he was a bench coach for the team. He coached the Red Sox to a World Series in 2018 after a 108-win regular season campaign.

However the Red Sox's conduct in 2018 camed under scrutiny after reports earlier this year that the team had improperly used video feeds in the replay room to help players during games.

However the league investigation found there was no evidence the conduct continued during the 2018 postseason or 2019 regular season.

Manfred said the wrongdoing by Watkins was significantly smaller in scale than the Astros cheating.

"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," Manfred said.

He also said Cora and the Red Sox coaching staff, as well as the front office, were unaware Watkins was using in-game video to assist with sign-stealing.

"Communication of these violations was episodic and isolated to Watkins and a limited number of Red Sox players only," Manfred said.