So far, this Red Sox season has been quiet—unless, of course, you count the bad news, of which there’s been plenty.
Chiefly, a new report in The Athletic alleges a cheating scandal that could mar the 2018 World Series Championship. The report, written by Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich, cites anonymous sources (including at least one member of the 2018 Red Sox) who claim Boston flouted MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s 2017 prohibition on the use of electronic equipment to capture opponents’ signs. Manfred’s warnings were subsequently reinforced before the start of the 2018 season.
The report says the sign-stealing wasn’t a factor in the 2018 postseason march because opponents constantly changed their sign sequences.
There will be investigations and the attendant cloud of suspicion following the team and, in particular, manager Alex Cora, as the whole sordid scenario unfolds in the weeks ahead. Cora, you’ll recall, was bench coach for the 2017 Astros and implicated by The Athletic (along with Carlos Beltrán and Houston manager A.J. Hinch) in their sign-stealing escapades that season.
For his part, former Red Sox baseball president Dave Dombrowski says he had no knowledge of any sign-stealing and that MLB has not contacted him on the matter.
Clubhouse Attendant Suspended
News also broke this week about a clubhouse attendant who was suspended by the Red Sox without pay last July after he was charged with 26 counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault at a New Hampshire youth detention center in the late 1990s.
The incident brings to mind the horrific 2002 incident involving retired Red Sox clubhouse manager Donald J. Fitzpatrick, who pleaded guilty in Florida to four counts of attempted sexual battery of boys younger than 12. Some of Fitzpatrick’s abuse had occurred inside the Red Sox clubhouse at Fenway Park.
Now some news and notes on interest to Red Sox Nation:
- Good to see former Red Sox key prospect Ryan Westmoreland has landed a coaching job at UMass-Dartmouth. In 2008 the five-tool Rhode Islander was a fifth round pick by the Sox in the MLB First-Year Player draft. But a tingling sensation in his fingers led to a devastating diagnosis of a malformation of his brain stem and a dangerous surgical procedure. Westmoreland recovered and attempted a comeback, but ultimately retired at just 22 years old.
Westmoreland says he’s excited by the new opportunity. “Ever since I started coaching, I knew I wanted a future in this,” Westmoreland says. “I was looking to get into the college baseball world, and we’ll see where it goes from there.”
- In a sign of what may be next at other parks, the Arizona Diamondbacks will implement the “clear bag” policy for all home events this year. The move is aimed at speeding entry times for fans entering the park while, at the same time, meeting the team’s security requirements. Chase Field will offer storage lockers (for a fee) for fans who arrive at the park with unapproved bags, such as backpacks.
- Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Umpires Association have reached a tentative five-year labor agreement through the 2024 regular season. The new plan includes pay raises and better retirement benefits for officials, as well as provisions for earlier retirement. As part of the agreement, umpires agreed to cooperate with MLB in the development and testing of an automated ball-strike system.
- “The Red Sox have some rebuilding to do,” says ESPN’s Buster Olney, “but they appear set at catcher for at least the next few seasons, now that Christian Vázquez is fully established.” Olney ranked Vázquez the 4th-best catcher in the Major Leagues.
- Red Sox Minor League catcher Elih Marrero, currently on the roster of the Single-A Salem Red Sox of the Carolina League, received a 50-game suspension without pay from MLB after testing positive for Amphetamine, a stimulant in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
- Tyler Thornburg, who came to the Sox in 2016 with much promise but little good results, has signed a minor league deal with the Reds…Chris Owings, who likewise had limited impact on the Sox when he signed on mid-2019, has inked a minor league deal with the Rockies. As of this writing, free agent former Red Sox Mitch Moreland and Brock Holt (not to menttion Andrew Cashner, and Jhoulys Chacín) remain unsigned.