Red Sox

If MLB can prove Red Sox stole signs illegally, it must drop hammer for good of game

If MLB can prove Red Sox stole signs illegally, it must drop hammer for good of game

Here are three words I don't want to hear, on or off the record, when the Red Sox inevitably try to defend their 2018 video room practices.

"Everyone does it."

That excuse wasn't good enough for the 2007 Patriots after the league sent every team a reminder about the illegality of taping opposing signals, and it sure as hell isn't good enough for the Red Sox, whose actions in 2017 effectively prompted a similar memo from Joe Torre.

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The forewarned 2018 Red Sox won 108 games while taking a sledgehammer to the rest of the league, and now comes news that they had some help. According to an extensive report in The Athletic, the Red Sox used their video room to steal signs throughout that regular season, relaying them to the batter from second base.

While this creates a bit of a gray area — the Red Sox decoded the signs via real-time video, but conveyed them the old-fashioned way, and not by banging on a garbage can like the Astros — let's be real. Because the Red Sox were busted for using Apple watches to aid sign-stealing in 2017, they should've been on their absolute best behavior in 2018.

That they weren't, and directly flouted the rules anyway, opens them to serious punishment by MLB, whether or not each of the other 29 teams engaged in similar behavior.

It also cranks up the heat on manager Alex Cora, who reportedly played a direct role in the Astros' sign-stealing during their 2017 title season as bench coach. If he deployed similar chicanery in Boston, the league will want to hear about it, because it's one thing to participate in such activities as a subordinate, but it's another when it's sanctioned on your watch. For all the innovations Cora brought from Houston, cheating is one we'd rather he left behind.

So what does this mean for the legacy of the 2018 juggernauts? We'll let the court of public opinion decide whether that championship is tainted, though MLB sign-stealing doesn't inflame the same passion as its NFL counterpart, because it's such an accepted part of the game.

Still, just as the Patriots have rightly claimed for years that they didn't need to deflate footballs to win it all in 2015, the Red Sox will similarly find themselves on the defensive, which serves as a de facto asterisk.

The 2018 Red Sox may note they were a killing machine with or without the aid of Samsung and LG, and we know they won without help in the playoffs, because MLB installed monitors in each video room that postseason.

But if their legacy is damaged, that's on them. Think fans still view the 2017 Astros as the product of a masterfully executed five-year plan? Or do they conjure visions of Oscar the Grouch slamming his lid before every changeup?

Legacy questions miss the point, though, because the real crime here isn't even the act of stealing. It's the impact the threat of such deception has on the actual game, with paranoia playing a significant role in the sport's suicidal pace of play issues.

From multiple mound visits to stupid crib notes sewn into caps to the Enigma machines needed to recode and decode signs on the fly, the moments between pitches can assume the feel of a sign language convention without subtitles.

Because baseball's best teams — the Astros, Yankees and Red Sox — are widely considered the most ruthless sign-stealers, it has forced an arms race among everyone else to develop measures and countermeasures to threats both real and imagined, further slackening a game that ain't exactly jai alai to begin with.

Maybe the solution is a form of wireless communications, à la the NFL's green dot, that eliminates the need for signs, or at least simplifies their sequencing. In the meantime, for the good of the game, MLB must render a punishment with enough teeth to leave no doubt that the risk of stealing signs electronically far outweighs the reward.

If that means making an example of the Red Sox, so be it. What I definitely don't want to hear is that everyone else does it.

Everyone else didn't get busted. You did. And you should pay a price.

J.D. Martinez states without equivocation that Red Sox will be exonerated by MLB investigation

J.D. Martinez states without equivocation that Red Sox will be exonerated by MLB investigation

SPRINGFIELD -- For five hours on Saturday morning at Winter Weekend, Red Sox players and coaches delivered basically the same message in regards to the 2018 cheating scandal: We're not at liberty to say anything until the league finishes its investigation.

And then J.D. Martinez stepped in front of the cameras.

The slugging DH, who earlier this offseason chose to remain in Boston rather than exercise an opt-out in his contract, minced no words when asked if the Red Sox did anything wrong during their championship 2018 season.

"You know, it sucks, to be honest with you," he said of the investigation. "It does suck. But you know what? I know I'm excited for the investigation to be over with just so that they can see that there was nothing going on here."

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So he believes the team is innocent of the charges that it used the replay room to steal opposing signs in real time?

"I believe that, yes," Martinez said.

And what gives Martinez this confidence, despite a report to the contrary in The Athletic claiming that the Red Sox stole signs?

"Because I was in there," he said. "I saw what was. . . . Straight up, everyone seems to forget that in 2017 and '16 this team was a really good team. This team won 93 games those two years and then we just got better."

Martinez spoke without hesitation, and also saluted departed manager Alex Cora, while offering some insight into why Cora decided to leave the team.

"Kind of heartbroken about it," he said. "I talked to him before and I understood his side of it. He didn't want to be a distraction going into the season. I know it was wearing on him and his family, so I obviously feel for him and I wish him the best. But I know he played a big, big role for our team and he was one of my favorites, if not my favorite manager that I've had. It's going to be tough."

Mike Lowell says he'd love to take job as Red Sox manager temporarily if it brought Alex Cora back

Mike Lowell says he'd love to take job as Red Sox manager temporarily if it brought Alex Cora back

Mike Lowell would check a lot of the boxes the Red Sox would be looking for in their managerial search. The popular former Red Sox third baseman is a Cuban-American who speaks Spanish and English and is media-savvy as an analyst for the MLB Network. 

Still, there's one condition he has that will probably take Lowell out of the running. 

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The 2007 World Series MVP and 2018 inductee into the team's Hall of Fame has no managerial experience, but told WEEI's Rob Bradford in a text message, "I would love to if I knew it was just for a year and Cora was guaranteed to come back."

Alex Cora, a Red Sox teammate of Lowell's for three seasons (2006-08), was let go by on Tuesday after he was named as the central figure in Major League Baseball's investigation of sign-stealing by the Houston Astros when Cora was their bench coach in 2017. Cora is also alleged to have brought a similar system to Boston when he became manager before the 2018 season. MLB is continuing to investigate the allegations against the Red Sox and it will likely result in a suspension of one season or longer for Cora.

Former Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were each suspended for a season by MLB and subsequently fired by Houston.

With Cora facing perhaps a longer punishment, or perhaps even a lifetime ban from baseball -- and from Red Sox ownership's telling silence when asked if Cora would ever manage in the majors again -- Lowell's plan of temporarily filling in until Cora's return isn't likely to fly.