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The 2018 sign-stealing investigation has finally concluded

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It’s not a harsh penalty.

2019 Major League Baseball Winter Meetings Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Amid everything else that has been goin on with the Red Sox over the last few months, and really in the entire world over that time, the league’s investigation into the 2018 Red Sox has been hanging over everything. The Athletic first reported that some players from that team indicated to them that players had illegally used information from the video replay room to steal signs in real-time back in January, and really nothing has happened with this. With the league not long after that handing down a big penalty on the Astros for their own sign-stealing investigation, everyone has been waiting with bated breath for what would happen to the Red Sox.

As it turns out, not all that much. Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich are reporting on Wednesday that the league has indeed finished its investigation and report, and that the penalties are not severe. Specifically, the Red Sox are losing a second round pick and replay operator J.T. Watkins is being suspended for 2020 and banned from that job in 2021. Further, Alex Cora has been found not to be involved, and his suspension for his role in the Astros scheme will last through the end of the 2020 postseason.

There’s a lot to unpack here and the link above has a lot of details to consider, but the main takeaway is this: The league ruled that this was not undertaken by the coaching staff or the front office, and that it was run entirely by Watkins and some players. That said, even though Rob Manfred had agreed not to punish players in this investigation as a way to get them to speak honestly, he indicated in his report that he wouldn’t punish players in this case anyway. He also distinguished a few times between what the Red Sox did and what the Astros did, with the former’s system — that went from the replay room to the dugout to a runner on second base to the hitter — being much less severe.

I have some thoughts on this I am going to suss out a bit more for tomorrow, but my initial impression is A) how can a coaching staff not be aware of this happening? and B) the league lost a lot of benefit of the doubt from people around the league in the Astros organization, and that is going to lead to natural suspicion here. I have no idea if this was a fair punishment or way too lenient because I wasn’t there, but I’m not really going to blame people who look at pinning this all on a video room operator as a way to make this go away more quietly.

Updates:

You can read the report in full here.

You can read the Red Sox statement here.

With the investigation over, Ron Roenicke has had the interim tag lifted from his title.