Red Sox, Alex Cora Punishments for Sign-Stealing Scheme Announced by MLB

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistApril 22, 2020

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - AUGUST 20: Boston Red Sox Manager Alex Cora returns to the dugout after disputing a call during the fourth inning of the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Philadelphia Phillies  at Fenway Park on August 20, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Major League Baseball announced Wednesday the results of its sign-stealing investigation into the Boston Red Sox.

The league suspended former Red Sox manager Alex Cora through the 2020 playoffs for his role in the Houston Astros' sign-stealing scheme in 2017 but not for any wrongdoing with Boston.

MLB also took away Boston's 2020 second-round draft pick and suspended video replay system operator J.T. Watkins after determining that the team stole signs in 2018.

Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic first reported the punishments.

MLB's Department of Investigations interviewed 65 witnesses, and commissioner Rob Manfred determined the sign-stealing was "less egregious" than what the Astros committed in 2017, per Rosenthal and Drellich. The investigation also found that the Red Sox also didn't continue the practice in the 2018 postseason or the 2019 regular season.

Manfred found that Boston's scheme was "far more limited in scope and impact" because it was only utilized when the team had a runner on second base, and Watkins signaled that "he had decoded the signs in only a small percentage of those occurrences":

The league levied one-year suspensions against Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch on Jan. 13. The Astros immediately fired both men.

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Team owner Jim Crane said of the move:

"There are two very important points I want to make today: I have higher standards for the city and the franchise, and I am going above and beyond MLB's penalty. Today, I have made the decision to dismiss AJ Hinch and Jeff Luhnow. We need to move forward with a clean slate, and the Astros will become a stronger organization because of this today."

Many expected MLB to drop the hammer on Cora as well, and ESPN's Jeff Passan reported in January the final ruling was "going to be harsh." 

Before the league could act, Cora met the same fate as his one-time colleagues when the Red Sox parted ways with him Jan. 14.

"Alex was professional and understanding that he had made a mistake," owner John Henry told reporters in a press conference. "After a couple of conversations, we all mutually agreed we needed to part ways. As we said yesterday, it was a sad day because we have such respect for Alex. He admitted what he did was wrong."

Rosenthal and Drellich lifted the lid on Houston's infractions when former Astros starting pitcher Mike Fiers told them the team had stolen signs during the 2017 season.

According to Rosenthal and Drellich, the Astros had a camera positioned in center field that showed the catcher's signs. The video feed was relayed to a monitor in a hallway between the Astros' dugout and clubhouse.

Upon figuring out the expected pitch, those watching the monitor would make banging sounds as a message to the hitter.

Based on the official report released by MLB, Cora was more involved in the scheme than Hinch, which led many to wonder whether he'd face a stiffer sanction:

Cora's role in the saga wasn't over since he'd have to answer for the league's investigation into the Red Sox too.

According to Rosenthal and Drellich, Boston was accused of using a video room during games to steal signs during the 2018 season, a year in which the team won the World Series.

The report added that the "system did not appear to be effective or even viable during the 2018 postseason" because opposing teams were already taking additional steps to counter any sign-stealing attempts.

Still, the scheme contravened MLB rules and was bound to carry a punishment for Cora if he was found to be complicit.

His suspension rules out a return to the coaching ranks for the upcoming season, and he might be frozen out for even longer since any team that hires him will be put under the microscope.