The sign-stealing scandal that, to date, has primarily focused on the Houston Astros has widened. Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic report that the 2018 Boston Red Sox had a video-enabled operation of their own:
Three people who were with the Red Sox during their 108-win 2018 season told The Athletic that during that regular season, at least some players visited the video replay room during games to learn the sign sequence opponents were using. The replay room is just steps from the home dugout at Fenway Park, through the same doors that lead to the batting cage. Every team’s replay staff travels to road games, making the system viable in other parks as well.
They report that the system was not useful during the postseason due to MLB personnel monitoring the replay room and due to other teams being wary enough of sign-stealing that they constantly changed signs.
The key part of this, though, is that this all came after Major League Baseball cracked down on use of replay officials in sign-stealing operations in the wake of the infamous Apple Watch scandal in 2017. That led to fines of Red Sox personnel and the implicit warning that, going forward, using video to steal signs would be dealt with harshly.
This also comes in the wake of Rob Manfred saying, in November, that he did not believe that the sign-stealing scandal then engulfing the Astros extended beyond Houston. That seemed like a silly whitewash at the time, but seems like even more of a whitewash now.
A whitewash that Major League Baseball apparently realizes it can no longer maintain. The league’s statement to The Athletic:
“The Commissioner made clear in a September 15, 2017 memorandum to clubs how seriously he would take any future violation of the regulations regarding use of electronic equipment or the inappropriate use of the video replay room. Given these allegations, MLB will commence an investigation into this matter.”
Rosenthal and Drellich say in their report that it’s possible that other teams were using their replay rooms in similar schemes but that, at present, they don’t have enough to go on in order to report that. Professional journalists do not say such things unless they (a) are still actively investigating the matter; and (b) are pretty sure that, eventually, they’ll get something more to go on. Which means that this is only going to expand.
Which is interesting for its own sake. But it’s also interesting because it seemed like Manfred and the league wanted to try to wrap up the Astros sign-stealing thing in a neat little bow before the 2020 season started. Now it would appear that those plans are out the window and that this story is far closer to its beginning than to its end.