Manfred's punishment of the Red Sox; MLB's draft uncertainty; the legend of Steve Dalkowski - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Manfred’s punishment of the Red Sox; MLB’s draft uncertainty; the legend of Steve Dalkowski

More than four months after he issued sanctions against the Houston Astros for electronic sign-stealing, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred completed his investigation of the Boston Red Sox and determined their punishment last week.

Manfred suspended Red Sox replay operator J.T. Watkins for the 2020 season and banned him from serving in that capacity for the 2021 season. He also took away Boston’s second-round draft choice for the upcoming draft and suspended former Red Sox manager Alex Cora for 2020.

Cora’s suspension was not for his part in the sign-stealing, which occurred in 2018, when he led Boston to a World Series title, but for his part in the Astros’ more elaborate scheme in 2017.

The Red Sox, assuming this punishment was coming, fired Cora in January.

The news might have been overlooked by fans, whose attention is focused on the coronavirus pandemic.

Manfred’s announcement came a day before the NFL draft, which was able to captivate fans stuck at home.

It does leave many questions. After interviewing 65 witnesses, including 34 current and former Red Sox players, it’s logical to ask why should the extent of Manfred’s penalties extend only to a replay operator?

Of course, there was a lack of institutional oversight, and Boston knew it couldn’t continue with Cora, who was the mastermind of the sign-stealing in Houston in 2017.

The Astros’ penalties were more severe, and Manfred writes in his report that Boston’s misbehavior wasn’t as widespread.

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Houston quickly dismissed general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch, both of whom had been suspended for the 2020 season. They also lost two their first- and second-round draft picks for 2020 and 2021, and were fined $5 million.

Boston hired its bench coach, Ron Roenicke, as its manager for this season, and some have pointed out that there’s nothing to prevent Cora from returning in 2021.

In a conference call last week, general manager Chaim Bloom, who replaced Dave Dombrowski, the GM during the sign-stealing, said that the reasons Cora was fired still existed.

“At the time that we parted ways with Alex, we were clear that that was a result of his role and what happened with the Astros and everything the investigation over there revealed,” Bloom said. “It had nothing to do with what may or may not have occurred in Boston, and that’s still the case. All the reasons we parted ways then are still the case.”

The New York Mets also dismissed Carlos Beltran as manager. Beltran was identified as the Astros’ player pushing the sign-stealing.

While it would be a surprise if Luhnow returned to baseball in the near future, Cora and Hinch are World Series-winning managers available to work in 2021.

Houston replaced Hinch with Dusty Baker, who was given only a one-year contract with an option for 2021.

Baker and Roenicke don’t have much job security, and nothing would prevent Cora and Hinch from returning to their former jobs.

What about the MLB draft? After watching the NFL draft, many viewers, including this one, found it more entertaining than the glitzy version we’ve gotten used to.

The MLB draft, which will be a slimmed-down five to 10 rounds, is scheduled to begin on June 10, but the date hasn’t been set because of the delay in the season.

If it turns out that MLB can begin a season in early July, they probably wouldn’t want the draft in June when teams would be hurriedly reassembling and figuring out what their rosters would look like.

They could then push it back to July, which they’re able to this year, and allow the season to start before the draft is held.

The MLB draft is a harder one to glamorize because few of the prospects are well known. College baseball has a much tinier audience than college football, and high school prospects are much more obscure.

Dalkowski’s death: Reading accounts of the late Steve Dalkowski’s life made me sad. I had read about him over the years and knew he was the inspiration for the character Nuke LaLoosh in “Bull Durham.”

But looking over his statistics was just astounding.

Dalkowski, who died on April 19 at 80 of the coronavirus, was thought to have been the fastest and wildest pitcher of all time.

He struck out 1,324 batters in 956 minor league innings and walked 1,236. In 1960, Dalkowski went 7-15 for Stockton with a 5.14 ERA. He struck out 262 and walked 262.

One of his catchers in the minor leagues, Cal Ripken Sr., said that Dalkowski was the fastest pitcher he had caught. Ripken estimated that his fastball traveled between 110 and 115.

Unfortunately, Dalkowski who spent nearly all of his minor league seasons in the Orioles’ organization, was undone by alcohol. He had spent his final 26 years in a nursing home in his native New Britain, Connecticut, being treated for alcohol-induced dementia.

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