Dodgers Team News

Dodgers News: Mookie Betts Says ‘Everybody Was’ Aware of Boston’s Sign-Stealing in 2018

When the Red Sox beat the Dodgers in the 2018 World Series, it was the second straight year Los Angeles lost the Fall Classic at home. As we found out later, it was also the second straight year they were beat by a team that would eventually be disciplined for sign-stealing infractions that occurred during their championship seasons.

The Astros, of course, received harsh punishment for their brazen scheme to pass along signs in real time by way of banging on a trash can, a scheme they used throughout the 2017 regular season and the postseason. General manager Jeff Luhnow was suspended for the 2020 season and subsequently fired by owner Jim Crane; Luhnow has not worked in baseball since. Manager AJ Hinch was also suspended for 2020 and fired by Crane; he was hired as the Tigers manager prior to the 2021 season. In addition, Houston was fined $5 million and forfeited their first two picks in the 2020 and 2021 drafts.

The Red Sox had a different scandal that was much more limited in scope. In the commissioner’s report on Boston’s situation, it was reported that JT Watkins, the team’s video replay coordinator, had expanded his scouting role — in which he used game film to try to decipher other teams’ signs in between games — to include that same sign-deciphering in real-time. When he learned something, he would pass the information along to the team, and it would be used with a runner on second base to help relay signs to the hitter. Everything about it was legal except the “real-time” element, which was expressly forbidden. Watkins was suspended for the 2020 season, and he went back to work for the Red Sox as a scout afterwards.

The Dodgers hired Watkins this offseason to assist hitters with their hitting game plans. He won’t have access to live video, just as he didn’t in his roles with Boston after his suspension. Mookie Betts, who was on that Red Sox team and is now one of the stars of the Dodgers, was asked recently if he was aware at the time that Watkins was using real-time video, as Dylan Hernandez reports in the Los Angeles Times.

“Yeah,” Betts said Sunday, “everybody was.”

However, Betts said the Red Sox didn’t use the sign-stealing system in the World Series against the Dodgers. The Red Sox batted .353 with runners in scoring position in the series, which they won, four games to one.

The Red Sox were found by the commissioner’s office to have employed the illegal sign-stealing program only in the 2018 regular season, as the investigation uncovered insufficient evidence to conclude they also cheated in the 2018 playoffs or the 2019 regular season.

In that 2018 regular season, Betts claimed, the scheme was infrequently used.

“Every now and …” Betts started to say. “It’s kind of hard to remember.”

So this wasn’t a daily practice?

“No!” Betts said with a smile. “This is what I’m trying to say. People are trying to make it like we’re cheating. Give us credit. We had a good team. Give us some credit. We had Cy Young winners. We had MVPs. We had Gold Glove winners. We had Silver Sluggers. We had all that. Take that into account.”

As the commissioner’s report said, the cheating by Boston was more limited in scope and impact because it only worked if and when A) Watkins was able to decipher the signs in real time, and B) when there was a runner on second base to look at the signs and relay them to the hitter. As everyone except those blinded by fandom down in southeast Texas understands, it was significantly different from using cameras to steal unencoded signs and passing them along in real-time. Nearly 79% of Houston’s plate appearances in 2017 came without a runner on second, meaning when the opposing team had no reason (or so they thought) to use sign sequences instead of simple signs.

Still, this is new information from Betts, that he and others were aware Watkins was bending the rules in 2018. We have no way of knowing how often Watkins’ scheme was employed; 21.5% of Boston’s plate appearances that year came with a runner on second base, but the unknowns include how often Watkins tried to decipher signs in real-time and how often he succeeded.

As Dave Roberts said last week and Commissioner Manfred confirmed, the Dodgers were one of several teams investigated after 2018 and there was no wrongdoing found. It’s disappointing that there was cheating going on in baseball, though, and it’s at least a little disappointing to find out Betts and others knew about it and didn’t do anything to stop it.

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Jeff Snider

Jeff was born into a Dodgers family in Southern California and is now raising a Dodgers family of his own in Utah. During his previous career as an executive at a technology company, he began writing about baseball in his spare time. After leaving corporate America in 2014, he started doing it professionally. Jeff wrote and edited for Baseball Essential for years before joining Dodgers Nation. He's also the co-host of the Locked On Dodgers podcast, a daily podcast that brings the smart fan's perspective on our Boys in Blue. Jeff has a degree in English from Brigham Young University. Favorite Player: Clayton Kershaw Favorite Moment: Kirk Gibson's homer will always have a place, but Kershaw's homer on Opening Day 2013 might be the winner.

One Comment

  1. It sounds like some fans are trying to justify certain cheating. But, but…. their cheating was worse. Betts was right. Everyone was doing it then. Not to mention what the pitchers were using, etc..Just own it and move forward.

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