Well, this is not the news I wanted on a Tuesday morning. This entire offseason for the sport has sort of been clouded by the sign-stealing scandal involving the Astros and specifically their run to the 2017 World Series. We’ve all been waiting for the hammer to drop on that one. Of course, Alex Cora was the bench coach for Houston during that run, so there was always the possibility of him getting wrapped up in that. Even worse, there was at least a slight chance he would have carried some of that over to the 2018 Red Sox.
It seems our fears have come through. In their latest bit of reporting, Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic have learned that the Red Sox allegedly used video to steal signs during the 2018 regular season. This comes from speaking with multiple people who were with the team that year who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The system went like so. The Red Sox would have the opponents’ pitch-calling sign sequence before the game from video review, which is perfectly legal and something every team does. If a pitcher is that predictable from start to start, that’s on them. However, teams were plenty paranoid by that point and would switch sign sequences frequently. At that point it’s on the baserunners to figure it out on their own — not an easy task. Allegedly, the Red Sox would have players enter the video room — where teams review calls for potential challenges — and get the signs from that video. They would then relay the information to the dugout, who would relay the information to baserunners, who would relay the information to batters. In short, that’s not allowed.
According to the reporting from Drellich and Rosenthal, this was only possible in the regular season as the league started putting monitors (like, people, not computer monitors) in the room in the postseason. Those monitors remained there for the 2019 season as well, though there was also some doubt into how much they were able to actually stop things most games in 2019 in the report as well. One source with the Red Sox actually said they had the monitors in their back pocket.
This was apparently common practice throughout the league from the time replay was first instituted in 2014 through the 2017 season. The Red Sox and Yankees were both punished for it late in that 2017 season, however, and the league more explicitly forbade the practice starting in the 2018 season. The Red Sox — and possibly some other teams, though The Athletic could not confirm that at this point — ignored that memo.
So, yeah. This sucks a whole lot. Judging by how the Astros thing has gone I wouldn’t expect a quick resolution here, but there are going to be punishments. It will also surely taint the legacy for a team that I have, many times, referred to as the best team the sport had seen in 20 years. There’s an asterisk there now. The cheating — which, as noted by Drellich and Rosenthal, isn’t as egregious as what the Astros have been accused of — isn’t the only reason that team won so many games, but it can’t be swept aside.
Anyway, this story is far from over, and I for one am super not looking forward to all of the new information that will undoubtedly come out. But, alas, we will keep you posted.
The Red Sox have given a statement.
Statement from the Boston Red Sox: “We were recently made aware of allegations suggesting the inappropriate use of our video replay room. We take these allegations seriously and will fully cooperate with MLB as they investigate the matter.”— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 7, 2020