Caught (Sign) Stealing: What Punishment Awaits the Red Sox?

The Yankees and Red Sox added a new chapter to their legendary rivalry earlier this week when Major League Baseball confirmed Boston had stolen catcher’s signs off of New York during an August series at Fenway Park.

The issue wasn’t so much that they stole the signs -– teams have been doing that since Abner Doubleday was shagging flies –- but how they did it. The team reportedly used an Apple Watch to relay information back and forth from a video replay technician to an athletic trainer in the dugout. The information was then shared with players on the field to tip them off on the kind of pitch about to be thrown. It’s serious cloak-and-dagger stuff, and it requires speed, precision, and a high level of coordination to pull off.

It’s unclear just how effective the system was, but we do know the Red Sox won two of their three games against the Yankees during the series in question, and outscored their AL East rivals 17-11. That’s notable since Boston has only averaged 4.73 runs per game during the 2017 season. They were also 5 for 8 with a runner on second base (which is when stolen information is most easily relayed to the batter) in the opening game of the series. That’s more than just luck, and it prompted New York to review reams of tape afterwards to figure out what had gone wrong.

Now that Boston’s scheme has been exposed, how will Commissioner Rob Manfred respond? Will the Red Sox get a mere slap on the wrist, or could there be bigger repercussions? We have the odds.

 

Major League Baseball does nothing at all: 5/2

Manfred sounded especially non-committal when asked if he would lower the hammer on the Red Sox. “Could it happen? You know, is there the authority to do that? I think the answer to that, under the major league constitution, is yes,” he told reporters. “Has it ever happened with this type of allegation? I think the answer is — I know the answer is no.”

The reason teams have never been punished for stealing signs before is twofold: (1) It’s virtually impossible to determine the impact of sign stealing, and (2) absolutely everybody does it. Sure, not every team uses wireless technology, but that’s probably because it hadn’t occurred to them to do so. Stealing signs is one of the greatest games-within-a-game in all of sports, and Manfred knows he would be opening a can of worms by coming down hard on the Sox.

 

Red Sox receive a fine: 3/1

Manfred would have grounds for fining the Red Sox if the team stonewalled him or blatantly challenged his authority, but the opposite has been true. When confronted with allegations of stealing, the Red Sox immediately admitted their guilt, and Manfred publicly said that he is “100 percent comfortable” that it is not an ongoing issue. Boston’s full cooperation makes it unlikely that Manfred will feel the need to make a statement by issuing a particularly punitive fine. It may still cost Boston a few bucks, but it certainly won’t break the bank.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. Photo by Arturo Paradavila III (Wikimedia Commons) CC License

 

Major League Baseball amends its sign-stealing policy in the next CBA: 2/3

Every time new technology emerges, new legislation typically follows. Major League Baseball is a little behind the eight ball when it comes to smartwatches, but it will likely take steps to include more definitive language in its next collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

 

Red Sox forfeit a draft pick: 6/1

Draft picks are less valuable in baseball than in virtually any other major sport given the fact that less than 10% of all players drafted make it to the Show. That said, they still have worth. Teams often include them in packages for Major League-ready talent and Boston would be loath to lose even a late pick. Manfred understands this, and is unlikely to jeopardize the Sox’ future.

 

Major League Baseball suspends players/coaches involved: 9/1

There were plenty of players and personnel involved in Boston’s sign-stealing scheme, but if Major League Baseball wants to signal out just one culprit, it will be assistant athletic trainer Jon Jochim. The Red Sox employee was the one who received the information via his Apple Watch and was the central figure in the scandal. If Jochim does get suspended (or worse, fired), Apple would be smart to hire him immediately for the press release alone.

 

Red Sox forfeit all wins against the Yankees: 499/1

Yankees fans would love to see the Red Sox forfeit the victories they racked up against their club, but that’s easier said than done. Boston and New York have met 13 times this season and the Red Sox have won six of those contests. If you were to give all of those victories to New York, the Yankees would emerge with an 81-58 record, while the Red Sox would drop to 73-67.

That would be a seismic change at this point in the season, and all but assure that the Yankees win the AL East while knocking the Sox out of the playoffs. It’s highly — highly — unlikely Major League Baseball would ever level that harsh a punishment for such a gray-area infraction, particularly if Manfred plans on visiting New England anytime in the next 30-40 years.

 

Red Sox are ruled ineligible for the 2017 playoffs: 999/1

Not even Pete Rose would bet on this happening.

Darren Myers

Darren Myers can list all 35 members of the Miracle Mets, knows every word to Casey at the Bat, and remembers exactly where he was when Michael Jordan scored 63 points against the Celtics in the Boston Garden. Unfortunately, he has no idea where he left his house keys. If you happen to find them please contact him immediately as it's starting to get dark and he's pretty sure he just heard something howl.