David J. Phillip/Associated Press
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred reportedly now has the power to suspend players without pay or service time if they are caught stealing signs electronically.
According to Evan Drellich of The Athletic, there is no set number of games that a player will be suspended if they violate the sign-stealing rules, as punishments will be at Manfred’s discretion.
Per Drellich, the language in the document outlining MLB’s new sign-stealing rules suggests general managers and managers will continue to be held responsible as well: “It is the responsibility of the Club’s top baseball operations official and field manager to ensure that all players, baseball operations staff and field staff understand the requirements.”
In addition to Manfred having the right to suspend players for electronic sign-stealing, MLB reportedly hired an outside security firm to guard the entrance to teams’ replay video rooms. Also, MLB is planning to edit signs out of the footage players can look at during games no later than next season.
The subject of player discipline in sign-stealing cases has been a hot-button issue this week, as Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly threw at Houston Astros stars Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa on Tuesday.
Kelly was suspended eight games for his actions, no small punishment in a 60-game season. That didn’t sit well with those who wanted Astros players to be disciplined for their role in the electronic sign-stealing scandal in 2017.
Manfred granted the players immunity and instead punished general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch, both of whom were fired by the Astros after they were suspended for one year each.
MLB also investigated the Boston Red Sox for illegal sign-stealing during the 2018 season, but their players were granted immunity as well.
Boston was docked a 2020 second-round draft pick, replay operator J.T. Watkins was banned for the 2020 season, and former manager Alex Cora was also suspended for 2020, although that stemmed from his role in the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal in 2017 when he was their bench coach.
Many players spoke out against the Astros players during the spring for their apparent lack of remorse for cheating, so it was assumed going into the season there would be some self-policing on the field.
That conversation died down when the start of the season was delayed four months because of the coronavirus pandemic, but Kelly put it right back at the forefront this week.
Players previously had no real fear of repercussions, but now that MLB has rules in place that can result in guys getting suspended and losing money, perhaps that is the deterrent needed to get illegal sign-stealing out of the game.