MLB suspends Red Sox employee for sign-stealing scheme, bans Alex Cora for 2020

Red Sox will also forfeit a 2020 draft pick

Major League Baseball stripped the Boston Red Sox of a draft pick and suspended two employees, including former manager Alex Cora, following a lengthy investigation into an alleged sign-stealing scheme during their championship season in 2018.

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The Red Sox will forfeit their second-round pick in the 2020 MLB Draft. Red Sox video replay system operator JT Watkins was suspended without pay for at least one year after MLB investigators found evidence he misused in-game video feeds to relay signs to players.

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Cora, who served as Red Sox manager in 2018, was suspended without pay through the 2020 postseason. However, he was penalized in connection to his role in a separate sign-stealing scheme as bench coach for the Houston Astros in 2017. MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred said the investigation showed Cora had no knowledge of Watkins’ actions in 2018. The Red Sox fired Cora in January after the conclusion of the investigation into the Astros.

Manfred noted in his report that Watkins "on at least some occasions during the 2018 regular 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 prior to the game,” according to ESPN. Watkins was also banned from serving as a replay room operator through at least 2021.

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The investigation found that Watkins’ actions were “far more limited in scope and impact” than those utilized by the Astros in their sign-stealing scheme in 2017.

"MLB acknowledged the front office's extensive efforts to communicate and enforce the rules and concluded that Alex Cora, the coaching staff, and most of the players did not engage in, nor were they aware of, any violations,” Red Sox President and CEO Sam Kennedy said in a statement. “Regardless, these rule violations are unacceptable. We apologize to our fans and Major League Baseball, and accept the Commissioner's ruling."

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MLB fined the Astros $5 million after a separate investigation found the coaching staff had knowledge of a scheme to use video and a signaling system involving a trash can to relay signs to players. Former Astros manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were each suspended without pay for a year for their actions.

The Astros fired both individuals hours after MLB’s findings were made public. The team also forfeited a pair of draft picks. Former Astros player Carlos Beltran was also implicated in the scheme, prompting the New York Mets to fire him as their manager just months after he was hired.

MLB’s 2020 season is on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. It’s unclear how the penalties will be applied if the season is impacted further.

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