MLB: Commissioner Manfred goes light again and fails to satisfy fans

William Parlee
Jul 9, 2019; Cleveland, OH, USA; Major League Baseball commissioner Robert Manfred (left) presents the most valuable player award to pitcher Shane Bieber (57) of the Cleveland Indians after the 2019 MLB All Star Game at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees and other teams felt the Houston Astros were cheating in 2017, and Boston was as well in their Championship 2018 season.  In the last step in those investigations, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred made it official yesterday afternoon that cheating did go on with the Red Sox during the 2018 season.

Back in January, Manfred stunned the baseball world when he issued a report on his investigations into charges that the Houston Astros used electronic means to steal signs and relay them to hitters in various ways. Manfred stated that on November 12, 2019, former Houston Astros player Mike Fiers publicly alleged in an article published by Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic that the Astros had engaged in sign-stealing methods in 2017 that violated MLB’s rules.

During his investigation, it was found that the Astros used a centerfield camera that electronically forwarded catchers signs to a camera near the dugout. Then that information was transferred to hitters with by noises or buzzers inside jerseys.  Even though the buzzer issue was heavily denied by the Astros, they were found guilty of sign-stealing.  This illegal activity may have cost the New York Yankees a berth in the World Series.

Manfred punished the Astros by suspending their general manager and Astros field manager Alex Cora for a year each.  They also fined the Astros $5 million, the league maximum.  Further, Manfred stripped them of their first and second-round draft picks.  The Astros owner went a step further and fired both the GM and manager Cora.  Considering that the Astros may have won the 2017 World series illegally, many fans, including this writer, believed that Manfred fell short by not stripping them of the World Series title and failed to punish any players or have their championship rings returned.

Fast forward to yesterday, the New York Yankees learned of the completion of the investigation into the Boston Red Sox and accusations that hey too may have stolen signs illegally in their World Championship season during 2018.  MLBs ruling on the Boston Red Sox’s illegal sign stealing in 2018 determined the primary culprit was not the front office, manager Alex Cora or the players, but the team’s video replay system operator.

The MLB findings were released yesterday afternoon, suspended Red Sox video operator J.T. Watkins for the remainder of the 2020 season, and that he may not hold the position in the 2021 season as well. It suspended Alex Cora through the end of the 2020 season, although not for anything he did in the 2018 Red Sox season, but for his participation in the 2017 Houston Astros season. His suspension is a moot point as he was fired by the Red Sox when the Astros sign-stealing scandal was revealed.

The Red Sox, for their part in sign-stealing they will lose a second-round pick in the 2020 draft. Following a January report from The Athletic on the Red Sox’s conduct, Commissioner Rob Manfred found that Watkins, on at least some occasions during the 2018 regular season, illegally utilized game feeds in the replay room to help players during games — an undertaking less egregious than the Astros’ famed 2017 sign-stealing scheme.  Really? Manfred said in his report:

“The club must be held accountable, particularly since the club may have benefited from Watkins’ conduct.”

The Boston Red Sox issued the following statement from the front office:

If fans believed that Commissioner Manfred went far too lightly in dealing with the Houston Astros, he has now gone even lighter on the Boston Red Sox.  He failed to fine the team, charge any players, or hold the front office accountable.  His treatment of the Red Sox simply amounts to a slap on the hand.  With his treatment of both the Houston Astros and the Boston Red Sox, he has failed to protect the game we all love.  He has signaled that if you cheat, you will not be punished severely.

To fully understand the implications of cheating against the New York Yankees, you have to realize the Houston Astros in winning the 2017 ALCS; they may have cost the Yankees a berth in the World Series.  They may have cost Yankee Slugger Aaron Judge, who came in second to Jose Altuve in the MVP voting, the award.  In the case of the Boston Red Sox, no one will ever know how many Yankee games may have been lost to the Red Sox cheating.  And in both cases, the effect on individual player stats for all players and teams they played against may have been detrimental.

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred has failed the baseball world by not punishing either of these teams more harshly, sending the message that cheating will not be tolerated.  He could have stripped titles and held these highly paid players accountable, but he didn’t, he failed.