“I have received absolute assurances from the Red Sox that there will be no future violations of this time.”
That is what MLB commissioner Rob Manfred wrote about the Boston Red Sox after they were caught in 2017 of stealing signs using an Apple watch as the main implement in the process.
Manfred in the same report:
“In addition to my September 15, 2017 warning to all Clubs that future violations of MLB’s sign-stealing rules would ‘be subject to more serious sanctions,’ I specifically advised the Red Sox that I ‘expect your strict adherence to the On-Field Regulations going forward.
“Numerous witnesses described that both then-President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski and current General Manager Brian O’Halloran subsequently communicated the importance of adherence to rules to employees, including Watkins.”
Fast-forwarding to Wednesday when the MLB and Manfred released the sign-stealing report on the Red Sox under former Astros bench Alex Cora, there seems to be a far different tone from Manfred.
“I find that J.T. Watkins, the Red Sox video replay system operator, 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,” Manfred wrote.
“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.”
Basically Manfred went out of his way to downplay the Red Sox’s rule-breaking because it was done in a more “traditional” baseball sense, using a runner at second after finding out the signs from the video room.
And the report plays Watkins as a lone wolf. That he alone was the mastermind and the driving force on the field.
New manager Alex Cora didn’t have a handle on Watkins and didn’t extend the Astros’ game plan for stealing signs to Boston.
That seems to fly in the face of the information that we have from Cora’s time in Houston. Cora was singled out as one of the sources for implementing the trash can banging scheme.
So when Cora got to Boston he stopped? That is what Wednesday’s report implies.
Plain and simple, I think the Astros were punished more harshly for being honest. I think the Red Sox were successful in stonewalling the MLB investigation where Houston’s players spoke freely with immunity.
The Astros paid the price for their crime and will continue to pay as the poster boy for cheating for many, many years to come.
Commissioner Manfred made sure of that on Wednesday.
Reach Fort Bend Herald Sports Editor Ryan Dunsmore by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter at @duns_more and @fbheraldsports.