MLB suspends Red Sox staffer, strips draft pick

Major League Baseball on Wednesday suspended Boston Red Sox video replay system operator J.T. Watkins without pay for one year and stripped the team of its second-round pick this year after completing its investigation into allegations the team illegally stole signs during the 2018 season.

Manager Alex Cora is suspended for the 2020 season but only for his role in the Astros’ sign-stealing case, when he was the bench coach for Houston, as commissioner Rob Manfred wrote in his report that he does not believe Cora was aware of Watkins’ actions.

Manfred wrote 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,” but his actions, unlike the Astros’ scheme, “was farm more limited in scope and impact.”

Manfred wrote that that he did not find that Cora, his coaching staff, the front office or most of the players on the team “knew or should have known that Watkins was utilizing in-game video to update the information that he had learned from his pregame analysis.

Communication of these violations was episodic and isolated to Watkins and a limited number of Red Sox players only.”

Besides his suspension, Watkins also is barred from serving as a replay room operator for the 2021 season and postseason.

“As an organization, we strive for 100% compliance with the rules. MLB’s investigation concluded that in isolated instances during the 2018 regular season, sign sequences were decoded through the use of live game video rather than through permissible means,” Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy said in a statement.

“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. 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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