Red Sox lose draft pick, Cora banned in sign-stealing scams

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Ticket windows are closed at Fenway Park baseball park, Wednesday, March 25, 2020, in Boston. There will be empty ballparks on what was supposed to be Major League Baseball's opening day, with the start of the Major League Baseball regular season indefinitely on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic. A statue of former Red Sox player Ted Williams stands at left. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

NEW YORK – The Boston Red Sox escaped severe penalties in Major League Baseball's cheating investigation on Wednesday, with Commissioner Rob Manfred concluding that the 2018 World Series champions' sign-stealing efforts were less egregious than the Astros' when they won it all the previous season.

Ex-manager Alex Cora was formally suspended for the coronavirus-delayed 2020 season — but only for his role as Houston's bench coach; Manfred had held off a penalty for Cora despite fingering him as the ringleader of the Astros' sign-stealing operation.

In a statement, Cora said he was “relieved'' the investigations were finished and that Manfred found he ”did not violate any MLB rules as a member of the Red Sox organization in 2018 or 2019."

“I also take full responsibility for the role I played, along with others, in the Astros’ violations of MLB rules in 2017," Cora said. "The collective conduct of the Astros organization in 2017 was unacceptable and I respect and accept the Commissioner’s discipline for my past actions.”

The Red Sox upgraded the status of Ron Roenicke, who had been their interim manager pending the outcome of the investigation.

“That interim tag is removed,” Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom said. “Ron is now our manager.”

The only member of the Red Sox organization who was penalized was replay system operator J.T. Watkins, who was suspended without pay for a year for violating the prohibition on in-game use of video to identify pitch signals. Watkins, who denied the allegations, was also prohibited from serving as the replay room operator through 2021.

Boston was also stripped of its second-round pick in this year’s amateur draft, No 52 overall.