Red Sox, Yankees both fined after MLB's investigation into sign-stealing accusations

Major League Baseball has concluded its investigation into the sign-stealing controversy that involved the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees and an Apple Watch. It was one of the more odd controversies of the season and the punishments announced Friday by MLB were a tad unpredictable, as the Red Sox escaped major punishment and the Yankees were fined for something that wasn’t even originally being investigated.

The Red Sox earned an undisclosed fine by the league after MLB confirmed the Yankees accusation that the Red Sox were having their video replay team relay opposing signs to the dugout using an Apple Watch. The violation, though, wasn’t for sign-stealing — which MLB re-affirmed that it’s OK with — rather it’s for the use of electronic devices in the dugout. Some had wondered whether the Red Sox might lose a draft pick or even vacate wins because of this, but MLB deemed this was not that egregious.

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Furthermore, the Yankees were fined after MLB found evidence that they’d inappropriately used the dugout phone during one of their past championship runs. MLB wasn’t clear about which year or what exactly happened, only that the Yankees were fined a smaller amount than the Red Sox. This, mind you, wasn’t something the Yankees were accused of. It was just uncovered in the investigation. The last Yankees World Series win came in 2009.

MLB, to help this medicine go down a little easier, announced it was donating money from both fines to hurricane relief efforts in Florida.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred at a recent news conference at Fenway Park. (AP)
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred at a recent news conference at Fenway Park. (AP)

Here’s the entirety of MLB’s commissioner Rob Manfred’s statement on the matter:

“Several weeks ago, the New York Yankees filed a complaint with the Commissioner’s Office alleging that the Boston Red Sox violated certain Major League Baseball Regulations by using electronic equipment to aid in the deciphering of signs being given by the Yankees’ catcher. The Commissioner’s Office has conducted a thorough investigation of the allegation. Today, I am prepared to disclose the results of that investigation.

“At the outset, it is important to understand that the attempt to decode signs being used by an opposing catcher is not a violation of any Major League Baseball Rule or Regulation. Major League Baseball Regulations do, however, prohibit the use of electronic equipment during games and state that no such equipment ‘may be used for the purpose of stealing signs or conveying information designed to give a Club an advantage.’ 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. 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.

“In assessing the significance of this violation, the investigation established three relevant points. First, the violation in question occurred without the knowledge of ownership or front office personnel. Second, when the Red Sox learned of the Yankees’ complaint, they immediately halted the conduct in question and then cooperated completely in my investigation. I have received absolute assurances from the Red Sox that there will be no future violations of this type. Third, our investigation revealed that Clubs have employed various strategies to decode signs that do not violate our rules. The Red Sox’ strategy violated our rules because of the use of an electronic device.

“Taking all of these factors as well as past precedent into account, I have decided to fine the Red Sox an undisclosed amount which in turn will be donated by my office to hurricane relief efforts in Florida. Moreover, 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.

“In the wake of the Yankees’ complaint to the Commissioner’s Office, the Red Sox brought forward allegations that the Yankees had made improper use of the YES Network in an effort to decipher the Red Sox signs. The Commissioner’s Office also investigated this allegation and the Yankees fully cooperated with the investigation. During that investigation, we found insufficient evidence to support the allegation that the Yankees had made inappropriate use of the YES Network to gain a competitive advantage.

“In the course of our investigation, however, we learned that during an earlier championship season (prior to 2017) the Yankees had violated a rule governing the use of the dugout phone. No Club complained about the conduct in question at the time and, without prompting from another Club or my Office, the Yankees halted the conduct in question. Moreover, the substance of the communications that took place on the dugout phone was not a violation of any Rule or Regulation in and of itself. Rather, the violation occurred because the dugout phone technically cannot be used for such a communication.
“Based on the foregoing, I have decided to fine the Yankees a lesser undisclosed amount which in turn will be donated by my office to hurricane relief efforts in Florida.”

The part of this that might have the longest impact is MLB putting other clubs on notice about the rules against electronic devices in dugouts. Sign-stealing without electronics is A-OK, the league says. But electronic devices in the dugout, that might cost you a draft pick.

That’s a punishment that should get teams’ attention.

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!