Red Sox News: David Ortiz blasts MLB for unfair sign-stealing penalty

Former Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz shown at spring training. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
Former Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz shown at spring training. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /

David Ortiz disagrees with the punishment MLB handed the Boston Red Sox from the sign-stealing investigation, claiming every team is doing the same thing.

Major League Baseball punished the Boston Red Sox for violating rules pertaining to the use of video to steal signs and franchise icon David Ortiz isn’t happy about it.

Ortiz discussed the sign-stealing controversy with Kevin Burkhardt and Alex Rodriguez on Fox Sports on Friday. The former Red Sox star explained why he believes the decision to strip Boston of a second-round pick and suspend video replay operator J.T. Watkins was unfair.

"“They were searching trying to find out if anything that happened in Houston happened in Boston,” Ortiz said. “Basically, it wasn’t even close to a similar situation. What happened in Boston is what everybody’s doing in the league right now. I think the punishment was not fair, to be honest with you.”"

Big Papi is right about the allegations against the Red Sox being nowhere near what occurred in Houston. The Astros crafted a complex scheme that involved using a live video feed in the dugout to watch for signs in real time and banging on a trash can to warn their hitters what type of pitch was coming. Every layer of the organization had their hands dirty in a plot that gave the Astros a significant edge on their way to winning a World Series in 2017.

Boston is only guilty of a video assistant using a monitor that MLB allows the team access to during games to update his scouting reports that he legally gather before the game. It was his job to study signs from opposing teams and communicate his findings to the players. Watkins wasn’t supposed to be doing this during games but if he notices a mistake in his scouting report while watching the action unfold, is he really expected to keep that to himself?

"“You’re going to bring a video guy, suspend him for (one year) just because he’s watching what the catchers are giving?” Ortiz continued. “Fastball, slider, breaking ball, changeup. Telling the player so the player can use it on the field? That’s what everybody’s doing. I don’t call that cheating. I think it was more of an excuse than anything else. That’s how I feel about it.”"

Is it really cheating if every team is doing it? Not according to Ortiz. If MLB launched an investigation into every team, they are bound to find some dirt on all of them. Everyone is looking to gain a competitive advantage.

Teams have been stealing signs for almost as long as the game of baseball has existed. There isn’t a rule against sign stealing but advances in technology have made it easier to do and that’s a line MLB doesn’t want to cross.

The Red Sox technically violated a rule but it hardly puts them in the same category as the Astros. Houston committed the baseball equivalent of a felony while Boston was charged with a misdemeanor.

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Houston received a much harsher punishment, losing first- and second-round picks in the next two drafts, a $5 million fine and one-year suspensions for manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow, both of whom were fired in the wake of this penalty.

Boston got off easy by comparison, although losing a second-round pick in a draft that is expected to have significantly fewer rounds this year is a steeper price than you might expect. It’s too harsh for a violation that, in the opinion of Ortiz, shouldn’t even be considered cheating.

A-Rod surprisingly seemed to agree with Ortiz, noting that MLB’s investigation didn’t uncover much. Not that Rodriguez is the best judge of what constitutes cheating given his history, but when a former Yankee defends the Red Sox it’s a telling sign.

Rodriguez puts the onus on MLB to bring further clarity to the rule book to ensure players are fully aware of what’s right and wrong. The complexity of the rules leaves some gray area that is expanding with advances in technology and MLB has been slow to react to.

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The Red Sox have accepted their punishment, apologized to the league and moved on. Clearly, not everyone else has. Ortiz has never been shy about speaking his mind so when his former team is treated unfairly you can bet he’ll have something to say.