Red Sox manager dismissed Cora suspended season for role in Astros cheating scandal

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The Boston Red Sox took off in the Major League Baseball sign theft scandal after Commissioner Rob Manfred concluded that their violations were much less egregious than those of the Houston Astros.

Boston was robbed of its second-round pick in this year’s amateur draft for theft of signs in 2018 and former coach Alex Cora was suspended during the 2020 post-season for his previous conduct as coach of Astros. Manfred had so far suspended his decision on Cora.

Manfred made his decision on Wednesday, announcing that operator of the Red Sox replay system J.T. Watkins violated the ban on using in-game videos to revise sign sequences provided to players. Watkins, who denied the allegations, was suspended without pay during this year’s post-season and banned from serving as a replay operator until 2021.

Boston won the 2018 World Series, but Manfred said the misdeeds did not happen during the post-season. He found that Boston cheating was not as ubiquitous or glaring as the behavior of the Astros, who he said repeatedly used a video camera in the outer field to steal the signs of the catchers during their race to the 2017 championship and again the following season.

Manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were suspended in the 2020 postseason on January 13 and fired that day by the Astros. Houston was fined US $ 5 million, the maximum allowed by the Major League Constitution, and lost its next two amateur draft picks in the first and second rounds.

The baseball season is suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, and this year’s draft could be reduced from 40 rounds to just five. Manfred said he was aware that “this penalty could have a bigger impact on the Red Sox than in a normal year.”

“Unlike the conduct of the Houston Astros in 2017, in which players communicated to the hitter of the dugout area in real time the precise type of throw about to be launched, the conduct of Watkins, by its very nature, was much more limited in terms of scope and impact. “, Manfred wrote. “The information was only relevant when the Red Sox had a runner-up at second base (which represented 19.7% of league appearances at the league level in 2018), and Watkins reported sequences of signs in a way that indicated that he had decoded them from the -game feed in only a small percentage of these events. ”

The operator of the “key participant” replay system

Watkins, 30, from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, graduated in 2012 from the United States Military Academy. The catcher was selected by Boston in the 10th round of the amateur draft in the same year and played in the Red Sox system until 2015.

Manfred described Watkins as a “key participant” in the Apple Watch incident in 2017, claiming that he had relayed decoded signs from the Boston rehearsal hall to the pirogue, first with a runner, then with shows it to a sports trainer.

Watkins has compiled advanced scouting information in recent years, and part of his job has been to decode the sequences of opposing pitchers before the series. His replay room was moved from a deletion location to an area adjacent to the canoe in 2018.

Manfred said the latest misconduct occurred during the 2018 regular season, but not post-season, when the MLB began placing staff in video rooms to monitor the conduct.

Manfred concluded that Cora did not know and had no reason to know about Watkins’ conduct, but “did not effectively communicate to the Red Sox players the rules for stealing the signs that were in place for the 2018 season.”

Cora, an inner champ from the Boston champions in 2007, was mentioned 11 times in Manfred’s decision on the Astros, who said he developed the cheat system. But Manfred pushed back a penalty until he investigated the Red Sox. Cora left Houston after the 2017 season and joined the Red Sox.

Interim tag removed from new Roenicke manager

The fallout from the January penalties caused Cora and the new manager of the New York Mets, Carlos Beltran, to lose their jobs. Beltran, the 2017 Astros senior player, was the only player mentioned as a participant in the program to place a monitor near the Houston shelter to receive video from the outside field and have players hit a trash can to report locations brittle.

Red Sox bench coach Ron Roenicke was promoted to interim manager after Cora’s exit. The interim tag is now set to leave Roenicke.

The Red Sox largely escape being labeled as defiled champions. The NFL New England Patriots stole signals during their 2007 AFC championship season by filming opposing coaches. The league fined the Patriots $ 250,000 and gave them a first-round pick, and also fined coach Bill Belichick $ 500,000.

“The MLB recognized the considerable efforts made by the front office to communicate and enforce the rules and concluded that Alex Cora, the coaching staff and most of the players had not committed any offenses or were not aware of them of violations, “said Red Sox president Sam Kennedy. in a report. “Anyway, these rule violations are unacceptable. We apologize to our fans and to Major League Baseball. “

The Red Sox players were promised immunity in the MLB investigation, but Manfred said that even if the players had been disciplined, none would have been punished.

He wrote, “11 witnesses identified characteristics of Watkins in-game communications that indicated that Watkins had sometimes acquired information about the sequence of signs in the rehearsal room during play.”

Manfred said six witnesses testified that they observed Watkins writing signs during games and four said they saw him use gestures or notes to communicate signs when a video monitor was present, which made them think that ‘he was trying to cover up prohibited conduct.

Watkins told MLB that all of the information he provided during the matches was obtained through pre-screening. He said that all the gestures he had made were harmless and suggested that the players may have been confused by providing information during the games, not understood his preparatory work or accused him in a competitive movement only after switching to other teams.

“Watkins did not provide a convincing explanation as to why the information he provided to players during the game differed from the information provided before the game,” Manfred wrote. “I am deeply disturbed by Watkins’ confession that he knowingly tried to hide his communications with the players on the video room monitor. “

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