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Dodgers Dugout: Red Sox get their ‘punishment’

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell and it would really be nice to watch a Dodgers game right about now.

The waiting is over. MLB has handed out their punishment to the Boston Red Sox for cheating during the 2018 season. And they got off lightly compared to the Houston Astros.

From our story by Bill Shaikin: “On Wednesday, three months after sanctioning the 2017 Houston Astros as cheaters, the league cited the Boston Red Sox for the same offense: the illegal use of technology to steal signs.

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“The sanctions assessed against the Red Sox, however, were far lighter, as the sins committed were judged to be far lighter. The only Red Sox employee punished was J.T. Watkins: an advance scout who doubled as a replay-room operator, who was suspended for the 2020 season.

Former Red Sox manager Alex Cora also was suspended for the 2020 season, but for his role as the Astros’ bench coach in 2017, not for his conduct as the Boston manager in 2018. The Red Sox also were stripped of their second-round draft pick in 2020.”

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According toCommissioner Rob Manfred, there wasn’t enough evidence to conclude that the Red Sox cheated in the 2018 postseason. It appears the video-aided sign-stealing was contained to just the 2018 regular season.

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Red Sox President Sam Kennedy released a statement that said: “As an organization, we strive for 100% compliance with the rules. MLB’s investigation concluded that in isolated instances during the 2018 regular season, sign sequences were decoded through the use of live game video rather than through permissible means. …

“We apologize to our fans and to Major League Baseball, and accept the commissioner’s ruling.”

Manfred said the information Watkins provided was relevant only when the Red Sox had a runner on second base, which happened in one of every five MLB plate appearances in 2018.

Of the 44 current and former Boston players who participated in the MLB investigation, either through in-person interviews or a statement furnished through the players’ union, Manfred said “more than 30” claimed to have no knowledge of Watkins’ scheme.

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So, there you have it. Does it pass the smell test, in that a guy so instrumental in the Astros’ cheating, Cora, only limited it to certain situations? Not really. Does it seem likely the Red Sox did more than they are being punished for? Yep. But I will say this: In the days after the cheating by the Astros came to light, there were amateur detectives on YouTube who discovered tons of video with banging noises coming just before Astros players batted in 2017. There is no mounds of YouTube evidence for the Red Sox.

Hopefully, this puts an end to this and teams around the majors have learned their lesson. But I’m not holding my breath. The big question for the Dodgers is: What did Mookie Betts, David Price and Joe Kelly know and when did they know it?

And hopefully, when this current nightmare is behind us and baseball returns, Dodgers fans won’t have forgotten their outrage over what these two teams did.

Ask Tom Niedenfuer

Throughout the next few weeks, Dodgers Dugout will expand its “Ask...” feature to include former Dodgers. Next up, Tom Niedenfuer.

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Niedenfuer is remembered by most Dodgers fans for one pitch that we won’t revisit. And that’s a shame, because he was a very underrated relief pitcher with the team. He pitched with them for seven seasons (1981-87) and was 30-28 with a 2.76 ERA and 64 saves. He pitched five innings in the 1981 World Series, giving up no earned runs and only three hits. For the Dodgers, he is 24th all-time in games pitched (310) and 11th in saves.

Niedenfuer will answer selected questions from readers of Dodgers Dugout, so send me your questions for him by clicking here or by emailing houston.mitchell@latimes.com. His answers will appear in a future newsletter.

Your first Dodgers memory

Well, I asked you to share your first Dodgers memory and you did. I received thousands of responses, so thank you. Since we have plenty of free time on our hands, I’ll continue running multiple “first Dodgers memories.” If you haven’t already, I’d still love for you to send me your first Dodgers memory, and it may run in an upcoming Dodgers Dugout. Include your name. And don’t send only a sentence, tell why that memory sticks out in your mind. You can email me your memory at houston.mitchell@latimes.com. Thanks.

Ron Jacobs: During the 1956 season I was 6 years old. I lived then and still do in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. The Brooklyn Dodgers games were televised on our local affiliate and I watched them with my grandfather. He tended bar at a nearby tavern and one day he brought home a cardboard promotional scoreboard from Corby’s whiskey. There were numbered tiles that could be inserted corresponding to runs scored each inning. It was a little less expensive than the one in center field at Wrigley. I had not developed any team loyalty but that night as we watched the Reds play the Dodgers I announced to my grandfather, “Pop Pop, whoever wins this game will be my favorite team.” Brooklyn won, Gil Hodges had a key hit, and I have been a devoted Dodgers fan ever since.

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Jim Kelley of Lancaster: I was 5 and could name the Dodgers lineup in 1956. Lots of news that they were moving out here. My first game in 1958 was a bus trip with my dad and his company, North American. I remember getting up almost every inning to go to the snack bar. I was stopped once and asked why I was going so much. My reply was “every time I go, the Dodgers score.” He told me to tell my dad if he ran out of money he would buy! Just keep going! It was a Dodgers-Giants game and I still can’t stand the Giants!

Colin Craig: I can remember being 10 years old and driving out to my parents’ cottage in Canada in our family minivan. I was working on my baseball sticker book and my dad leaned back to ask if I had decided on a favorite team (I had just gotten into baseball).

I told him I kind of liked the Dodgers as I loved the story of how they were the underdogs and took down the mighty Oakland A’s in the World Series the year before. He told me his mom was a Dodgers fan, too, and he could remember coming home from school in the 1950s and seeing her tuning in to watch them play the Yankees in the World Series. From then on it was settled!

Sam Teller: Although I have been a Brooklyn Dodgers fan beginning in 1941 when I was 7 years old, my first real memory was when one of my uncles, a rabid New York Giants fan, began taking me to Dodgers games when the Dodgers visited the Polo Grounds. He had season tickets. The first game he took me to was in 1947 and I saw Jackie Robinson for the very first time, in a gray uniform, in a night game! There were some catcalls, but mostly the home team fans treated him respectfully. He had a very good game and stole two bases. His speed was on view for all to see. It was quite a memorable night, and I knew then that he would be a star and clutch player! And, my uncle told me that “I wish we had him.”

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Ask Ross Porter

Former Dodgers broadcaster Ross Porter is back for another season of “Ask Ross Porter.” We have a new email address this season for it. Ross will have access to this email address and will get your questions without me having to forward them. So, if you have a message (like thanking him for his years as a broadcaster) and not a question, feel free to let him know. Send your question or comment to rossporterdodgers@gmail.com.

Karli Morris of Birmingham, Ala., asks: Ross, if this season is canceled, will next year’s All-Star game be in Los Angeles or will we have to wait 40 more years?

Ross: A highly reliable source tells me, Karli, there has been no decision made to date regarding the All-Star game either for this year, or 2021 if canceled in 2020. Three sites had been set earlier:

Dodger Stadium in 2020, Atlanta in 2021 and Philadelphia in 2026. Five NL cities — San Francisco, Houston, Cincinnati, San Diego and Pittsburgh have hosted two All-Star contests since the one at Dodger Stadium in 1980. That is because they were played in two different stadiums in each city as Major League Baseball wanted to show off new ballparks. Dodger Stadium has been renovated this year. All-Star games have been played 21 times in NL cities since the Dodgers entertained. Tampa is the only major league city never to have been a host. In 90 previous duels, the American League has scored three more runs than the National League and has two more victories.

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Jim Montague asks: Hello Ross, I want to thank you for so many great years and memories. I’m 67 years old, and was surprised last week when you talked about the 1969 high school basketball game of the week you announced on Channel 4 with Sandy Koufax. How did you remember the final score was Beverly Hills 92, Aviation 91 and five overtimes were needed on that rainy Saturday afternoon? I was a junior guard on Aviation’s team and played the entire game. After it was over, dejected, walking to the locker room someone behind me grabbed my arm. I turned and it was your broadcast partner, Sandy. He told me, “Son, I’m sorry, but you played well and you’ll have many great games ahead of you.” Can you imagine, a huge sports and Dodgers fan, and I see him face to face and he shook my hand. The next year we beat Verbum Dei who won the CIF, and later I played at Stanford. No real question for you (although I could ask a million). I just wanted to thank you, share a memory we both share together and wish you the best always.

Ross: It’s been people like you, Jim, who have made my career so wonderful and worthwhile.

Walter Menck asks: Both you and Houston contribute to the true fan’s relationship with the Dodgers through journalism. My question is: How many Dodgers have led the National League or majors in homers or RBI?

Ross: In the last 95 seasons, only four Dodgers have led the NL in home runs, including Adrian Beltre who also topped the big leagues in 2004 with 48. Dolph Camilli, Duke Snider and Matt Kemp topped the NL. In the past 130 years, a Dodger has collected the most RBIs in the NL 10 times and seven of those were MLB highs, but only twice since 1962: Kemp in 2011 and Adrian Gonzalez in 2014. Only three Dodgers have won the home run and RBI titles in the same season — Oyster Burns in both leagues in 1890, Camilli in the NL in 1941, and Kemp in both circuits in 2011.

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Mina Sirkin of Calabasas asks: What are the rules changes for this season if we have one?

Ross: A pitcher entering a game must face at least three batters or end the half inning, unless he is hurt. The active roster limit will increase by one to 26 through Aug. 31, will drop from 40 to 28 through the end of the regular season and return to 26 for the postseason. Each team may have a maximum of 13 pitchers through Aug. 31 and during the postseason, and 14 from Sept. 1 through the end of the regular season. Teams may attempt to fake injuries and it would be difficult to prove it wasn’t true. One way for baseball to foil that plan is to have the pitcher automatically put on the 15-day injured list.

And finally

Vin Scully narrates a video of the latest renovations at Dodger Stadium. Watch it here.

Until next time...

Have a comment or something you’d like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.

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