The Fenway Frauds miniseries now looks at the 2018 season, where we know the Boston Red Sox were sign stealing on their way to yet another illegitimate World Series title. After three division titles and a World Series championship in the prior five seasons under a different manager, evidently the corrupt and greedy Boston front office wasn’t satisfied. They just had to double down on the cheating.
Enter Alex Cora: He was the bench coach for cheating-via-sign-stealing 2017 Houston Astros, who also won the World Series. The Red Sox snatched him up to take over the Boston squad in 2018, and he brought his cheating ways with him—and the organization won the World Series again, for the fourth time in 15 seasons after going a legendary 86 years without a title prior to 2004.
This is a little bit of a different analysis than PED assessments, but the principles remain the same. The Red Sox scored 91 more runs in 2018 than they did in 2017, so we’re looking for similar increases in production from unlikely players on the roster.
Exhibit A: Xander Bogaerts
An All-Star player at age 23 in 2016, Bogaerts regressed a lot in 2017, as his OPS dropped to the .746 level. Considering the Red Sox were on the hook for $7M in salary here for 2018, you can bet they wanted more out of their investment. And they got it: The OPS jumped 137 points to a career-best .883 as Bogaerts set then-personal records for most HRs, most RBI, most doubles, and fewest Ks in 2018.
Was all this due to sign stealing? Probably. At age 25, Bogaerts still was working toward his peak, and in 2022, he’s been at a consistent production level since this 2018 season. However, whatever he may have lost after the cheating crackdown by MLB, he’s merely recovered through his natural talent progression. He is 29 in 2022, so he has a few more seasons left in his prime. We will see how those go for him.
Exhibit B: Mookie Betts
He was voted the AL MVP this season, after an even bigger boost than Bogaerts got at the same age: Betts went from an .803 OPS in 2017 to a whopping 1.078 OPS in 2018! His batting average alone jumped 82 points, and he hasn’t come close to these numbers again since this season, even though he’s now with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2022. He’s settled back into a solid groove much lower than this.
So, it’s clear his 2018 season was an anomaly, even more so than Bogaerts’ season. Think about how this benefitted the Red Sox, too: They won a World Series, and then they traded Betts to the Dodgers for three prospects before the 2020 season. This also benefitted Mookie, too: After making $20M with Boston in 2019, basically doubling his 2018 salary, he then signed a ginormous contract with L.A.
How ginormous? A 13-year, $392M contract. Cheaters do prosper in MLB, of course, as we have seen.
Exhibit C: Brock Holt
After peaking in his age-27 season in 2015 with a .727 OPS, Holt used sign stealing in 2018 to deliver a .774 OPS. That was a 226-point improvement over his 2017 numbers. This came back to bite the Red Sox in the butt when Holt earned a $1.35M raise for 2019, via arbitration. What is the team to do when they know a player’s improvement was only because of cheating? Let him seek riches elsewhere.
After a .771 OPS effort in 2019, the Boston organization chose not to re-sign Holt, so in came the Milwaukee Brewers, thinking they were getting an age-32 veteran at the tail end of his solid-enough prime. After leaving the Red Sox and their sign stealing, Holt earned another $5M from the Brewers, the Washington Nationals, and the Texas Rangers before not being able to find a sucker/taker for 2022.
His OPS with those teams? A lowly .322 with Milwaukee; a poor .668 with Washington; and a laughable .579 with Texas. Holt can laugh his way to the bank for the rest of his life, thanks to Cora and the Boston Red Sox.
Conclusion: Winning another World Series was worth it
Cora was suspended for only one season (2020) by MLB for his role in all this cheating, and now he’s still the Red Sox manager in 2022. He obviously hasn’t paid much of a price, as the 2020 season was shortened anyway by the Covid pandemic. Betts won the lottery as a result, and Holt got away with a minor fortune for a player of his caliber.
But hey, Massholes can flaunt another World Series titles in the faces of the fans in the Bronx, right? Fenway Park remains full of “faithful” fans—you know, those guys who disappeared in early 2013 after a last-place finish—and the Red Sox organization continues to rake in profits, thanks to cheating, just like that team in the City by the Bay at The House That Steroids Built.