Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

MLB Sends Clear Message: Go Ahead, Cheat Your Ass Off

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has something for the Boston Red Sox.
Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has something for the Boston Red Sox.
Illustration: Eric Barrow (Getty)

Major League Baseball finally concluded its investigation into the 2018 Boston Red Sox sign-stealing their way to a world championship, and Rob Manfred brought down the hammer on one of baseball’s marquee franchises.

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Okay, maybe not the “hammer” in the way that phrase usually implies. More like the “hammer” in former Oakland A’s bat boy Stanley Burrell’s debut album, Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em. Actually, that album had a track called “Crime Story,” so that fits, and so does “U Can’t Touch This,” as far as both title and sampling from the Houston Astros scandal the way Hammer did with Rick James’ “Superfreak.”

Alex Cora, the Boston manager in 2018, got suspended… for his role in the Astros’ cheating… which barely matters because the Red Sox already fired him in January… and matters even less because the suspension is for the 2020 season, which, uh, yeah.

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The one person in the Red Sox organization held accountable was video replay system operator J.T. Watkins, banned for the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Watkins “on at least some occasions during the 2018 season, utilized the game feeds in the replay room, in violation of MLB regulations, to revise sign sequence information that he had permissibly provided to players during the game.”

Red Sox players were granted immunity in exchange for their cooperation with the investigation, but Manfred wrote that “based on the findings of the investigation, this is not a case in which I would have otherwise considered imposing discipline on the players.”

So, that’s it? The Red Sox cheated, but it really all came down to the video guy? He takes the fall for the whole thing? Just that one guy?

Well, to really show the Red Sox this was serious, MLB docked Boston its second-round pick in this year’s draft.

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That’ll show them, right?

The Red Sox have made 59 second-round draft picks in their history, including some as compensation for free agents signed by other teams. Of those 59 players, including picks from the last few years who still could make it, only 26 have made the major leagues.

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Now, there have been some second-rounders who have become big stars in Boston. Three, to be exact: Fred Lynn (1973), Jon Lester (2002), and Dustin Pedroia (2004). The Red Sox also got Justin Masterson in the second round in 2006, Kelly Shoppach in 2001, Jeff Suppan in 1993, and Rick Miller in 1969 — all serviceable major leaguers. Everyone else? Scrubs. They made the major leagues, which is an achievement for anyone, but they were all scrubs.

So, going forward, the Red Sox lost their video guy, plus, if we’re being charitable, a 10 percent chance of having one good player on their team from 2025 through 2030 or so, but escaped a 90 percent chance of giving a second-round signing bonus and developmental energy to someone who would never get on the field at Fenway Park anyway.

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So, that’s it? The Red Sox cheated, but it really all came down to the video guy? He takes the fall for the whole thing? Just that one guy?

The Red Sox won’t even get booed like the Astros did for a couple of weeks of spring training before the pandemic bailed them out. And there’s already speculation about bringing Cora back to manage next year. 👇

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Punishments are meant to send a message, not only to the guilty parties in an investigation, but to anyone considering engaging in such behavior in the future. And the message here from MLB is clear:

Cheat your ass off. Nobody cares.

Sorry to all the other Jesse Spectors for ruining your Google results.

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