Red Sox sign-stealing penalty not enough for South Florida fans

After Major League Baseball announced its punishment of the Boston Red Sox for a 2018 sign-stealing scandal on Wednesday, few Miami fans were satisfied. 

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred suspended Red Sox replay operator J.T. Watkins for one year without pay and took away the team’s second-round pick in the 2020 MLB draft. Manfred also suspended former Red Sox manager Alex Cora (who had already been fired) but that related to his role in the 2017 Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal.

The Red Sox won the World Series in 2018. They kept that title. The Astros penalty — which included a $5 million fine and four top draft picks — was tougher. 

“I think [the penalty] was too light,” said Alex Taboas, a former South Florida ballplayer who now follows the Marlins.  “What team wouldn’t risk a second-round pick and a video coordinator in exchange for a World Series.”  

“I’m cool with Cora getting suspended, he deserves to be suspended,” said Peter Romeo, another former South Florida ballplayer who now follows the Marlins. “Also, I think docking draft picks is the best the league can do but they should have taken a first-round pick because they cheated.”  

“They got off pretty easy, considering what the Astros got,” said Myles Thomas, a fan who played for Chaminade-Madonna in 2014.” The whole Red Sox situation was swept under the rug. Cora was already fired and the guy who gets the most blame is a replay operator. Come on.”  

After winning the World Series in 2018, the team did not make the playoffs in 2019, boasting a record of only 84-78. Players have remained silent ever since Cora was fired in January by team owner John Henry — the former Marlins owner. Cora, who was the Astros bench coach,  had been accused of leading the charge in the Astros sign-stealing scandal in 2017 before being hired the Sox. 

In the Astros 2017 and 2018 scheme, a player on the team would watch a TV in the tunnel of the dugout to decode the signs, then bang on a trash can to let hitters know what pitch was coming in real-time. The Sox relayed catchers’ signals too, but using an Apple watch in 2017. In 2018, Watkins, the replay operator,  relayed signs to runners at second base, who then relayed it to hitters. 

The Red Sox hit over .290 with runners on second during the 2018 season, which was over 40 points better than the next team. 

Dominic Diaz, who currently lives in Miami and pitched for  Longwood University, a Division 1 school in 2018, is perfectly fine with the punishment. Diaz is a Yankees fan. 

“The Red Sox received the proper punishment for their actions,” he said. “Their actions aren’t even as close to what the Houston Astros did.” 

Sign stealing, of course, has been part of baseball for decades. It is common and not illegal for a runner on second to try to decipher a catcher’s sign to a pitcher.  

 “Growing up, we are all taught to look at the catcher to try to figure out the sign,” said Thomas, who attended Chaminade. “But that’s paying attention to the game. But when you are using video to get the other teams sign during a game, that is completely wrong. MLB needs to come down harder on these situations,” said Thomas.

The national press was also divided. NBC Sports writer Bill Baer was upset with the punishments both the Astros and Red Sox received. He said  “MLB’s light punishments show the Astros/Red Sox calculus was correct. The benefits of cheating massively outweigh the downsides.”  

Angel Navarro is a broadcast journalism major. He's also a sports fan who played 12 years of organized baseball.