On Wednesday, the MLB suspended the Boston Red Sox video replay system operator J.T. Watkins through the 2020 playoffs, as well as docking the Red Sox of their second-round draft pick for this years draft. 

All of this coming after the league completed an investigation into the allegations that the Red Sox were stealing signs during the 2018 season. 

The punishments also extend to former Sox manager Alex Cora, who separated with the team at the beginning of this year, due to the backlash from the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal. Cora is also suspended through the 2020 postseason. 

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred stated in his report that he believes Cora was unaware of Watkins’ actions, therefore there will be no additional punishment. 

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“I am grateful for the Commissioner’s thoughtful and thorough investigation relating to my conduct as Red Sox manager. I also take full responsibility for the role I played, along with others, in the Astros’ violations of MLB rules in 2017,” Cora said.

President and CEO of the Boston Red Sox Sam Kennedy, said,  “I want to be very clear that any violation of Major League Baseball’s rules is unacceptable.” 

Kennedy has said that he doesn’t believe the investigations and actions have tainted the 2018 Red Sox title, but the actions of the team were unacceptable and out of line. 

While Cora is hopeful to be freed of his sanctions and possibly a return to the Sox in 2021, the team’s Chief Baseball Officer, Chaim Bloom, put a stop to that idea quickly. 

“We said at the time we parted ways with Alex, we were clear that was the result of his role in what happened with the Astros and everything that happened with the investigation over there revealed and had nothing to do with what may or may not have occurred in Boston, and that is still the case. All of the reasons that we parted ways then are still the case.”

Manfred has stated on numerous occasions that while he is troubled by the actions of  Watkins, the 2018 Red Sox actions are far less serious and “egregious” than that of the Houston Astros a year prior. 

In addition to the suspension, Watkins is banned from serving as a replay-room operator for the 2021 season and playoffs. Bloom stated that there will be no additional punishment for Watkins. 

According to the commissioner, there were six witnesses who claimed to have seen Watkins writing signs during games, and four said that they saw him use gestures to communicate signs when a video-monitor was not present. 

“Watkins did not provide a persuasive explanation for why the information he provided to players during the game differed from information provided prior to the game,” said Manfred. “I am significantly troubled by Watkins admissions that he knowingly attempted to conceal his communications with players from the video room monitor.”

With all of the precautions being taken by the league due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Manfred has stated that this year’s draft could be as short as just five rounds. 

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