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Volume 26 No. 208
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MLB Will Investigate '18 Red Sox For Alleged Illegal Sign-Stealing

The Red Sox were fined an undisclosed amount in '17 for sign-stealing prior to winning the World Series in '18
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The Red Sox were fined an undisclosed amount in '17 for sign-stealing prior to winning the World Series in '18
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The Red Sox were fined an undisclosed amount in '17 for sign-stealing prior to winning the World Series in '18
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

MLB will "launch an investigation" into whether the World Series-winning '18 Red Sox "illegally used video replay feeds to steal signs during games," according to Alex Speier of the BOSTON GLOBE. This investigation comes in the wake of a report by The Athletic in which three "unidentified members of that team described in-game visits by players to the replay room ... to pick up the sign sequences of opposing teams." The timing of the allegations is "significant, since the Red Sox were fined an undisclosed amount by MLB" in September '17 for using an Apple Watch to "convey sign sequences from the replay room to the dugout." Though sign-stealing is "not prohibited, the use of electronic devices to do so is." When the league fined the Red Sox in '17, it noted that "a) the commissioner's office 'had received absolute assurances from the Red Sox that there will be no future violations of this type,' and b) future violations could result in greater discipline." Manager Alex Cora "declined to comment" on the situation. Former Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski said in a text message that he "did not know of any such sign-stealing behavior, and that MLB has not contacted him regarding the matter" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/8). In Massachusetts, Christopher Smith notes the '18 Red Sox' sign-stealing "doesn't seem as blatant as what happened" with the Astros. However, the league already has fined the Red Sox for illegally using technology to steal signs, and Commissioner Rob Manfred sent out a memo before the '18 season "stressing replay video rooms could not be used for stealing signs" (Springfield REPUBLICAN, 1/8). 

SECOND INFRACTION: In Boston, Sean McAdam noted The Athletic's report indicated that the Red Sox in '18 "used a staff member to decode opponents' signs and sequences." That staff member then would "relay that information to a player visiting from the nearby dugout." The '17 Astros used "other methods to illegally steal signs, relying on an unauthorized camera in center field, linked to a monitor in the dugout." In both cases, Cora is a "potential common denominator." Whereas it "might have been difficult for MLB to severely discipline Cora" for the Astros situation, a "past transgression that was committed with a former employer, Cora receives no such protection this time around" (BOSTONSPORTSJOURNAL.com, 1/7). In Massachusetts, Matt Vautour writes MLB's "spotlight is going to shine bright and hot" on Cora, who could be facing a "notable suspension." Publicly, Cora is "getting tagged as a cheater" (Springfield REPUBLICAN, 1/8). In Boston, Jason Mastrodonato writes it is going to be a "long road back for Cora's credibility should all of the current accusations prove true." He now "risks being known as 'the sign-stealing guy' if the Red Sox can't find new ways to win" (BOSTON HERALD, 1/8). In Houston, Chandler Rome writes though it is "unclear whether the latest revelations against Cora and the Red Sox will affect the Astros' investigation, it enhances the widespread notion that technologically aided malfeasance extends beyond one team" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/8). MLB Network's Brian Kenney said it is "imperative that baseball comes down rather harshly here," as MLB has a "chance to really set a precedent because 10 years ago we weren't dealing with this sort of stuff" ("Intentional Talk," MLB Network, 1/7).

HOUSTON STILL HAS A PROBLEM:  ESPN.com's Jeff Passan cited sources as saying that MLB's investigation into the Astros' illegal use of technology is in its "final stages and members of the organization expect" Manfred to "decide on the severity of discipline within the next two weeks." Sources said that the targets of discipline will be "employees of the team, including the front office and on-field coaching personnel, but will not include the players involved in the scheme." The Astros "could face a record fine" (ESPN.com, 1/7). In Toronto, Gregor Chisholm writes the "best way to scare teams off from cheating the system is by setting a precedent with sanctions severe enough to give everyone pause: suspensions and fines for the guilty parties, luxury tax payments and the loss of draft picks for the organizations they represent." Though players are not expected to face discipline, a statement "should be made that they won't be so lucky with future transgressions." MLB needs to be "open and transparent about the findings of its investigation, not only for the public good but to embarrass its own teams into compliance" (TORONTO STAR, 1/8). In L.A., Dylan Hernandez writes neither inquiry is "likely to uncover the extent of the alleged cheating or how prevalent the practice is" in MLB. The public will "see part of the picture and have to use its imagination to fill in the gaps." Rumors about electronically aided sign-stealing have "swirled around the game for a couple of years" (L.A. TIMES, 1/8).

HOW THINGS SHOULD BE: In Boston, Peter Abraham writes one "simple solution" to eliminate illegal sign-stealing would be from the "first pitch to last, do not allow players, coaches, managers, or team staffers access to televisions, monitors, or any other device showing the game beyond the MLB-approved content on those tablets used in dugouts." Everything else, including "video on cellphones, should be off-limits, with violators facing suspension." The "only acceptable sign stealing should come from watching the game in person and decoding it with your own wits" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/8).