Exactly 100 days (but what feels like a few years) after disciplining the Astros for their sign-stealing scandal during the 2017 season, MLB handed down punishments to the Red Sox Wednesday for a similar but evidently less egregious system during the 2018 season. As The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich reported, the organization will lose its 2020 second-round pick, while replay operator J.T. Watkins will be officially suspended for the 2020 season (if there even is one) and effectively suspended in 2021 since he’ll be prohibited from serving as a replay operator. Alex Cora, who was fired as Red Sox manager in January because of his involvement in the Astros scandal, will be banned from participating in any semblance of a 2020 season that may take place due to his role in the Astros’ sign-stealing operation.
BREAKING: #RedSox penalties:— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) April 22, 2020
*Loss of 2020 2nd-round pick.
*Ban of replay operator J.T. Watkins through 2020 playoffs and from doing same job in ‘21.
*Ban of Alex Cora through ‘20 playoffs, but only for conduct with #Astros.
Story with @EvanDrellich: https://t.co/6Ysn9hsRFa
The report found that Watkins went rogue and was illegally using game feeds to help players, but without the knowledge of the coaching staff or front office. The league came to the conclusion that the illegal practices did not continue into the 2019 season — that may or may not be a sign of how effective the system was, considering that the Red Sox went from 108-54 in 2018 to 84-78 in 2019.
There’s a very real possibility that Cora — and for that matter, A.J. Hinch and Jeff Luhnow — will not actually have to suffer the effects of the punishment, since there may not be a 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic. And even if there is, it will be far from the usual, so it’s not likely that any of Cora, Hinch, or Luhnow will be sitting around stewing and wondering what could have been. It’ll be interesting to see if teams hold any of them accountable beyond their formal punishments moving forward. It’s difficult to imagine many if any managerial changes being made this offseason since there will be either a pandemic-shortened season played in an unusual, chaotic environment or no season at all. But it’s possible that Hinch and Cora could join staffs or front offices this winter and begin working to rebuild their respective images. Considering that they have superior intellect and histories of winning, making their resumes much more attractive than those of most other managerial candidates, it’s possible that we see both managing again before too long if teams are willing to look beyond their previous errors in judgment.