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

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.


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.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB



  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    April 28, 2020 at 7:12 am

    And once again, the golden franchise from Beantown skates by. Gutless ruling Mr. Manfred.

    Alcohol induced dimentia …. wow … think about that. Here’s to you Steve Dalkowski. Meat.

  2. JoeFundo

    April 28, 2020 at 8:18 am

    MLB, led by their out of touch commissioner, will blame COVID-19 for the drastic decline in attendance in upcoming seasons. In reality, the primary reason will be the Manfred Cover-Ups. MLB has jumped the shark. Rampant cheating for three decades, doctored manufacturing of baseballs, lying to their customers, propaganda from their own media outlets, squeezing out minor league teams across the country, etc. So sad.

    • BirdsCaps

      April 28, 2020 at 3:34 pm

      I concur with part of your statement, but not all of it. The lack of legends from the early nineties to the early mid 2000s hurts the game, that has relied on legends and lore for as long as I can remember. The doctored balls and the minors will be forgotten by most fans, except those affected by the reduction in the minors. Baseball is suffering from a combination of a few things, some of which are commissioner Manchild’s fault. One problem is the shortened attention span of youngsters, while another is the fact that theyre playing soccer and lacrosse. Furthermore, the Americana of the game and its history are often lost upon a lot of the younger and their parents, as europenan/world culture/values become more trendy. Finally, the rule changes that would attract baseball purists have distorted the tradition to an extent (cant stand the 2b/c interference rules, the replay, or the stupid rules on extras that they are contemplating). So, baseball has ticked off a fair amount of purists, while not capturing the audience of the young.

    • dlgruber1

      April 28, 2020 at 9:29 pm

      You guys are both correct but to me it’s as simple as the game is boring now. All it is is strikeouts, walks and HR’s. I can’t even remember the last time I saw a team try to use a hit-and-run. Why would they tho, the batter is very likely to swing and miss and the base runner thrown out. No one bunts anymore. Absolutely no one chokes up on the bat, or for that matter even cuts down on their swing, with two strikes on them. No pressure is put on the defense at all and yet defense is also worse than I’ve ever seen it. Guys throw to the wrong base, miss the cut-off man etc. I will say this tho about today’s players, they’re very good at flipping their bat after hitting even a meaningless HR. Pathetic.

      • BirdsCaps

        April 29, 2020 at 1:07 am

        Good point dlgruber. I am curious if there will ever be an emphasis on hitting for average or doubles in a counter revolution of money ball. At this point it might take quant with a different perspective than current orthodoxy.

  3. CalsPals

    April 28, 2020 at 8:28 am

    Can almost see Ripken Sr as Crash Davis…RIP Steve…go O’s…

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      April 28, 2020 at 8:53 am

      Ripken Sr. does Annie Savoy? Ummmmm… I can’t see it.

    • CalsPals

      April 28, 2020 at 9:05 am

      LMAO, awesome…go O’s…

  4. NormOs

    April 28, 2020 at 9:39 am

    Manfred, to the Astros and Red Sox, “Don’t do this again (STEAL THE WORLD SERIES) or else I’m going to have to give you a slap on the wrist”

    This is no different then the Black Sox scandal except there was a real commisioner in charge.

  5. cedar

    April 28, 2020 at 10:39 am

    With most, if not all, of the baseball season lost this year, these penalties handed out to the Astros and Red Sox amount to even less of a slap on the wrist. Manfred should extend then into 2021-2022.

    • dlgruber1

      April 28, 2020 at 9:30 pm

      Excellent point, I couldn’t agree more.

  6. willmiranda

    April 28, 2020 at 10:51 am

    Thanks, Rich, for noting Dalkowski’s passing. Not a HoFer, but a unique talent and personality that brought color and texture to the game. Also humanity, exuberant and poignant. RIP

    • Rich Dubroff

      April 29, 2020 at 8:19 am

      I had no personal knowledge of him, just what I read, but his death attracted a lot of attention, Will.

  7. Mickraut

    April 28, 2020 at 3:38 pm

    Ted Williams took one pitch from Dalkowski during spring training 1963. From S.I.-
    “The catcher held the ball for a few seconds a few inches under Williams’ chin. Williams looked back at it, then at Dalkowski, squinting at him from the mound, and then he dropped his bat and stepped out of the cage … [Williams] told [reporters] he had not seen the pitch, that Steve Dalkowski was the fastest pitcher he ever faced and that he would be damned if he would ever face him again if he could help it.”
    R.I.P. Dalko.

  8. BirdsCaps

    April 28, 2020 at 3:42 pm

    The evidence is nowhere near what was found for the stros. With that said, if cora was one of the masterminds in houston, I would assume that he did more than was found in boston. This is of course conspiratorial, but I do wonder if MLB was as eager to find evidence of wrongdoing in an historic and influential franchise than they were in investigating a younger and less influential one. Also, baseball lost some of its living lore with Dalkowski’s passing. The mystique of a 100+mph fastball and a “Clown Prince of Baseball” are examples of the Americana, history, and lore that the game relies on.

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