When Major League Baseball launched its investigation in mid-January into whether the 2018 Red Sox benefited from illegal sign stealing, team owners asked that fans and onlookers reserve judgment until the league completed its investigation.
With Wednesday’s release of MLB’s findings, Red Sox principal owner (and Globe owner) John Henry said that he supported the league’s conclusion that rules violations occurred during the 2018 season. He likewise accepted the league’s punishment of the loss of a 2020 second-round draft pick and the suspension for the 2020 season of video replay coordinator J.T. Watkins.
“I believe MLB went above and beyond in order to ascertain facts that led to their conclusion and I support the findings,” Henry wrote in an email.
In a call on Wednesday with MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and the other 29 club owners, Henry and Red Sox chairman Tom Werner took responsibility for the rules violations outlined in the report and apologized to their fellow owners. They specifically apologized to members of the Dodgers and Yankees organizations, whose players and officials were put in the position of having to answer a litany of questions during spring training about whether the Red Sox championship should be viewed as tainted.
The infractions , Henry wrote, resulted in the lengthy investigation that in turn “created a terrible environment [for those teams] for a prolonged period [at the start of 2020].”
In assessing whether the league’s investigation cast a shadow over the championship, Henry noted that the league identified a relatively limited scope of any infractions related to the use of live video feeds for the purposes of sign stealing and sign sequence stealing.
The report went to some lengths to identify efforts by the front office (including current GM Brian O’Halloran) to ensure compliance with MLB prohibitions on the use of live video feeds for such purposes, and said that neither manager Alex Cora nor members of the coaching staff had been involved in efforts to gain an edge from live video feeds. Moreover, the report noted that any violations occurred solely in the regular season and not during the postseason.
Nonetheless, the report found that efforts to educate players in the need for compliance were incomplete, and concluded — despite the denials of Watkins — that the video replay feed had been used at times to identify in-game changes to sign-sequence information, which was in turn relayed to players. Ultimately, such interactions represented a rules violation for which Henry accepted punishment — even as he noted what he viewed as the limited impact of such violations on the 2018 team’s performance.
“What I regret most about all of this beyond the toll it took on our organization is the position it put our fans in — having for months to wonder if the 2018 championship could actually be the result of unfair play,” Henry wrote. “It’s clear from the report that these isolated occurrences in 2018 happened during the regular season. The report references how often those instances called into question had an opportunity to take place and within the context of the overall season all one has to do is the math to see the net potential result. But I’ll let others do the math.”
Despite the report’s finding of wrongdoing by the Red Sox, Henry expressed his hope that the organization’s reputation would not be tainted.
“Our organization places a strong emphasis on integrity. I believe our players play with a love of the game, in fact have a great deal of integrity and display a fierce determination not just to win on the field but to represent our community incredibly well in so many ways,” said Henry. “I hope our fans will read the findings of this report.”
Henry did not respond to questions related to whether the Red Sox would be interested in re-hiring Cora after the completion of his suspension following the 2020 season.