After an investigation that at times seemed to drag on and on, there turned out to be neither bark nor bite in Major League Baseball’s punishment of the Boston Red Sox for cheating during the 2018 season.
But Yankees manager Aaron Boone nonetheless came away confident that other teams will be deterred enough from engaging in the kind of chicanery that got the Red Sox and, to a much larger degree, the Astros in trouble.
“I’m glad that we’re kind of through those situations,’’ Boone said Thursday night in an interview with the YES Network. “Hopefully, as I’ve said all along and I do believe this, hopefully just as a sport, we’ll be better moving forward knowing that you mess around, they’re coming for you. And I think that’s a good thing.”
That was on the record. Privately, both inside the Yankees' organization and inside a slew of others, the overwhelming opinion was that MLB let the Red Sox off the hook.
“I think they [MLB] just wanted this over and done with, period,” one National League official said. “After all that [months-long investigation] and it’s just some video guy [found guilty and punished]? Come on.”
That wasn’t the totality of the sanctions against the Red Sox, but close.
On Wednesday, commissioner Rob Manfred announced his findings and subsequent penalties, which amounted to Red Sox video replay manager J.T. Watkins being suspended for the 2020 season — which might not take place because of the coronavirus crisis — and being unable to work in the replay room in 2021. MLB also stripped the Red Sox of a second-round pick in the 2020 draft.
The Red Sox announced later that day that Watkins won’t be fired and will be assigned a different role after his suspension.
Watkins was the only member of the Red Sox, who won the 2018 World Series, to be punished by MLB. Their manager that season, Alex Cora, previously was fired by the Red Sox for his role in the Astros’ scandal, and he was officially suspended through 2020 as part of Manfred’s report Wednesday. But the commissioner said that measure was taken as a result of what took place with the Astros — Cora was their bench coach in 2017 — not the Red Sox.
In January, MLB suspended Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch without pay for one season, fined the Astros $5 million and docked first- and second-round picks in the 2020 and 2021 drafts. Astros owner Jim Crane fired Luhnow and Hinch later that day.
“I do note that Cora did not effectively communicate to Red Sox players the sign-stealing rules that were in place for the 2018 season,” Manfred said in Wednesday’s release. “No other member of the 2018 Red Sox staff will be disciplined because I do not find that anyone was aware of or should have been aware of Watkins’ conduct.”
On the surface, that would seem to strain credulity — and it drew much derision behind the scenes from industry insiders — but Boone expressed a desire for the sport to pivot.
“Who knows exactly what went down,” Boone told YES. “I do trust that MLB thoroughly investigated and got down to the bottom of things as best they can. If that’s what was come up with, then so be it. It’s time to move on.”