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MLB strips Red Sox of draft pick, suspends replay operator for one year in sign-stealing investigation

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred announced Wednesday that the Boston Red Sox will lose a second round draft pick and their video replay operator will be suspended for a year as a result of the league's investigation into allegations of sign-stealing during the 2018 season. Manfred said the violations were "far more limited in scope and impact" than those involving the Houston Astros in 2017-2018.

Manfred placed most of the blame on the Red Sox replay operator, T.J. Watkins. According to the commissioner, Watkins would occasionally transmit decoded sign sequences during games to runners on second base.

"Communication of these violations was episodic and isolated to Watkins and a limited number of Red Sox players only," Manfred said in a summary of the investigation's findings. Manfred also noted he found no evidence suggesting former manager Alex Cora, the rest of coaching staff or the team's front office were aware of Watkins' actions.

In addition to the penalties levied against the Red Sox, Manfred announced that Cora will be suspended through the end of the 2020 postseason, but clarified that punishment stems from Cora's time in Houston. Cora was the bench manager for the Houston Astros during the 2017 season, but Manfred chose to defer punishing him until the investigation into the Red Sox was completed. Cora and the Red Sox parted ways in January, shortly after the Astros punishment was announced.

"While I will not impose additional discipline on Cora as a result of the conduct engaged in by Watkins (because I do not find that he was aware of it), 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.

The league determined that in 2017, the Astros illegally used video replay to decode opponents' pitching sequences. That information was then transmitted to batters in real time by banging on a trash can inside the dugout to indicate what type of pitch was coming.

Following Wednesday's announcement, the Red Sox released a statement saying, "As an organization, we strive for 100% compliance with the rules." The team noted that the commissioner found no fault with the majority of the organization's staff and players, but added, "Regardless, these rule violations are unacceptable. We apologize to our fans and Major League Baseball, and accept the Commissioner's ruling."

The 2020 MLB season, which was originally scheduled to begin March 26, has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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