Alex Cora

ALEX CORA

The Red Sox admitted wrongdoing and were punished by Major League Baseball for illegally using technology to steal signs during their championship season in 2018, commissioner Rob Manfred announced Wednesday.

Manfred finally released the findings of the league’s investigation that began on Jan. 7 after a report in The Athletic detailed how the Sox used their video replay room to decode signs during games in the 2018 season.

MLB’s investigation concluded similar findings and agreed that the Sox illegally used the replay room at points during the 2018 season. The Sox will lose their second-round draft pick in 2020 as punishment.

But most notably, Manfred’s findings exonerated former manager Alex Cora from any violations in 2018 and pinned all the blame on J.T. Watkins, an advance scout and replay system operator.

Watkins, who denied breaking any rules when interviewed by Manfred, was suspended without pay for the 2020 season and the 2020 postseason and is prohibited from serving in the same role at any point in 2021. No other Red Sox personnel were found to be in violation.

“I do not find that Cora or any member of the Red Sox staff either knew or should have known that Watkins was utilizing in-game video to update the information that he had learned from his pregame analysis,” Manfred wrote. “Separately, Cora will be suspended through the conclusion of the 2020 postseason for his conduct as the Astros’ bench coach in 2017.”

It was essentially a clean slate for Cora, paving the way for him to work again as a big league manager as soon as 2021.

Manfred said he interviewed 34 current and former players with the Red Sox before concluding his findings. Most of them said they did not think Watkins was illegally using the live video feeds during games to decode signs, but a small number of players admitted they suspected he was using real-time video to decode signs and transfer that information to the players.

Red Sox players were granted immunity for speaking to Manfred, as were Astros players in the case of the 2017 Astros.

Manfred punished the Astros much more harshly, however, docking them a first- and second-round draft pick in both the 2020 and 2021 drafts, plus suspensions for manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Lunhow for a full season.

“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,” Manfred wrote.

Manfred also noted that the Red Sox’ front office “consistently communicated MLB’s sign-stealing rules to non-player staff and made commendable efforts toward instilling a culture of compliance in their organization.”

Sox president Sam Kennedy, who previously asked fans to reserve judgment about the 2018 season, admitted the club made mistakes.

“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,” Kennedy wrote in a statement. “Regardless, these rule violations are unacceptable. We apologize to our fans and Major League Baseball, and accept the Commissioner’s ruling.”

Roenicke the man

The Red Sox are making Ron Roenicke the permanent manager for this season, having removed the interim tag shortly after their punishment was handed down by Major League Baseball, according to reports on Wednesday.

Roenicke was named interim manager in February after the organization parted ways with Cora over the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal. Cora is banned for the 2020 season for his role in the scandal when he was the bench coach in Houston.

Roenicke, 63, spent the past two seasons as the Red Sox’s bench coach for Cora.

Roenicke posted a 342-331 record as manager of the Milwaukee Brewers from 2011 until he was fired in May 2015 after a 7-18 start. He led the Brewers to their first division championship in 29 years in that 2011 season before losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series. It was the only season the Brewers made the playoffs under him.

Roenicke was a major league outfielder from 1981-88, playing with six teams. He was a minor league manager and a bench coach with both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels.

With reports from Field Level Media