ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The penalty for using electronics to steal signs from an opposing team: a fine.
Major League Baseball fined the Boston Red Sox an undisclosed amount for “sending electronic communications from their video replay room to an athletic trainer in the dugout” for the purpose of stealing signals from the opposing catcher, commissioner Rob Manfred announced Friday.
The New York Yankees filed a complaint against the Red Sox last month, triggering an MLB investigation.
The investigation found “insufficient evidence,” according to a statement released by Manfred’s office, that the Yankees used their YES Network cameras to spy on the Red Sox, as Boston had alleged in a counterclaim. MLB did dock the Yankees a lesser undisclosed amount for improper use of a dugout phone prior to this season.
Money collected from both fines will be donated to hurricane relief efforts in Florida.
Manfred decided on the punishment — and elected not to levy harsher penalties, such as the forfeiture of draft picks or even wins — after reviewing the findings of a league investigation into two complaints.
But Manfred noted in his ruling that “all 30 clubs have been notified that future violations of this type will be subject to more serious sanctions, including the possible loss of draft picks.”
The Yankees alleged that the Red Sox used an Apple Watch to relay decoded signs to a trainer in the dugout and eventually to players. After the Yankees went public with details of their accusation, the Red Sox countered with their complaint.
In his ruling, Manfred noted that the Red Sox’s violation “occurred without the knowledge of ownership or front office personnel,” though there was no mention of manager John Farrell. Manfred also reiterated that the Red Sox halted their use of the watch after being confronted by MLB and cooperated with the investigation.
Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said after the ruling that he won’t issue any internal discipline for personnel involved in the Apple Watch flap.
Sign stealing, as a practice, isn’t prohibited by MLB. In fact, it has surreptitiously been happening for years in various ways, typically with a runner on second base peeking in to decipher the signals being given by the opposing catcher.
But the use of electronic devices in the dugout is not allowed. The Yankees, particularly general manager Brian Cashman, suspected for a while this season that the Red Sox were doing something illicit to steal signs, although it wasn’t until an Aug. 18-20 series at Fenway Park that they had evidence to prove it.
“Despite this clear regulation, the prevalence of technology, especially the technology used in the replay process, has made it increasingly difficult to monitor appropriate and inappropriate uses of electronic equipment,” Manfred said in the statement. “Based on the investigation by my office, I have nonetheless concluded that during the 2017 season the Boston Red Sox violated the regulation quoted above by sending electronic communications from their video replay room to an athletic trainer in the dugout. “
According to sources, the Yankees utilized replay review cameras to study the Red Sox’s dugout. What they uncovered was a scheme that involved using video to decode the sequence of signals given by Yankees catchers and texting them to an athletic trainer in the dugout via an Apple Watch. The signals were then relayed to players, enabling them to figure out what pitches were coming.
Although the Red Sox went 20-for-140 (.143) with runners in scoring position in 19 games against the Yankees, they were 10-for-30 during the Aug. 18-20 series. More specifically, they went 9-for-24 with a runner on second base — the easiest spot on the field for a player to peek in at the catcher and steal a sign — and won two of those three games at Fenway.
The Yankees reached out to the commissioner’s office in July. They also began changing their signs so often that catcher Gary Sanchez made frequent visits to the mound, particularly in the late innings. When MLB questioned the Red Sox about the situation, team officials admitted electronic equipment was being used to relay signs to players. Given an order to cease that practice, the Red Sox complied, according to Manfred.
The Yankees nevertheless took the unusual step of filing a formal complaint with the commissioner’s office on Aug. 23. Dombrowski estimated that he has been involved in 10 sign-stealing disputes in his 40-year career. In each case, he said, the situation was resolved when one general manager told the other to put an end to the espionage.
On Sept. 5, a New York Times report detailed the Red Sox’s sign-stealing operation. The Red Sox filed a countercomplaint with MLB that alleged the Yankees used cameras from their YES Network for the exclusive purpose of stealing signs.
Manfred, who was making a scheduled appearance in Boston on Sept. 5, seemed to be annoyed that the sniping between the AL East rivals had become so public.
“We would prefer not to have these sorts of issues at all, No. 1,” Manfred said. “No. 2, to the extent that we have them, we’d prefer to investigate them, deal with them privately and be done with them. Didn’t happen that way.”
The Red Sox mostly laughed about the matter, at least publicly. During a Sept. 5 news conference, Dombrowski actually chuckled at the notion that the Red Sox did anything wrong, saying he has “had my wrist slapped a few times throughout my career.” Second baseman Dustin Pedroia poked fun at the Yankees’ claim that pitcher Doug Fister was wearing an earpiece when it was actually his mouth guard.