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Why MLB players aren’t being punished in the Astros, Red Sox sign-stealing investigation

None of the players from the 2017 Houston Astros have been disciplined for their participation in the electronic sign-stealing scheme.Alex Gallardo/AP file/Alex Gallardo/AP/File

It’s been a little more than a week since Major League Baseball released its nine-page report detailing the Houston Astros’ 2017 sign-stealing scandal.

In that report, commissioner Rob Manfred suspended — though it led to the two being fired by Astros owner Jim Crane — general manager Jeff Lunhow and manager A.J. Hinch. Manfred said he would wait to hand down a punishment for Alex Cora — who was said to be the ringleader of the operation as the Astros’ bench coach — once the investigation into possible sign-stealing by the 2018 Red Sox concluded.

Cora and the Red Sox parted ways, as did the Mets and manager Carlos Beltran, who was involved in the scandal as a player with the Astros. But those players still active were spared.


According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, the Players Association struck a deal early in the investigation into the Astros where players were granted immunity. One MLB source confirmed that report, adding that the union negotiated immunity for the players in the interest of protecting their members from punishment, but also to have at least some voice in how the game is played and resolving issues such as sign-stealing.

“No one seemed to be in an uproar over the Wall Street Journal report,” one league source added. “So, take that for what you will.”

MLB has kept its investigations into the Astros, and now the Red Sox, close to the vest. What usually might leak out of the league office is being kept under wraps so it doesn’t inhibit or stall the investigation. Having something reported might hinder or alter player testimony on one of MLB’s largest cheating scandals.

Red Sox players have also been tight-lipped regarding the investigation. The Globe reached out to one player Tuesday asking if he’s been contacted by the league, but the player had nothing to offer.


“Not allowed to talk about it,” he said.

It’s led some critics to speculate that MLB told players not to speak on the matter, but the league pushed back on that notion. Instead, the league source intimated that it might be the union, team officials, agents or even lawyers for the players asking that they don’t share details of the investigation.

Players on other teams, though, have been vocal. Because the union represents pitchers and hitters alike, there has been what one source said was “internal squabbling” among players. Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger, Marcus Stroman, and Alex Wood have been among the pitchers who have publicly criticized the lack of consequences for hitters involved in the scandal.

Bauer hinted for years that the Astros had a system in place to decode signs. He took it up another notch recently, intimating on the record that he heard from three independent sources that Houston took it as far as wearing buzzers in order to indicate what pitch was coming. Stroman tweeted about his dismay over the situation, and Clevinger insinuated on Twitter recently that he will hit batters if the league doesn’t police this properly.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, seem confident they didn’t do anything wrong. Team chairman Tom Werner and principal owner John Henry said last week they hope fans don’t rush to judgment and to let the investigation play out. Slugger J.D. Martinez was even more direct: “I’m excited for the investigation to be over so they can see there was nothing going on here.”


If the Red Sox are found to be guilty, they will likely suffer the same fallout among peers across the league as the Astros.

Furthermore, assuming Red Sox players were granted the same immunity as the Astros, it might cause even more turmoil within the union.