When Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred released his report on the sign-stealing scandal ravaging the sport on Monday, one person received a stay of execution: Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora.
Manfred announced season-long suspensions for Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and field manager A.J. Hinch, barely an hour before the team fired them altogether. Cora, the former Astros bench coach, temporarily survived with an ominous warning: severe discipline would soon arrive, following the conclusion of the investigation into his current team for similar crimes.
The Red Sox didn’t wait for Manfred’s verdict. On Tuesday night, they fired—or “mutually parted ways with,” according to their news release—Cora, the popular manager who guided them to a World Series championship in 2018.
The outcome seemed all but certain, considering Cora’s alleged role in the Astros’ cheating. Manfred’s nine-page statement explaining the league’s findings named Cora 11 times and described him as “involved in developing” two methods by which the Astros stole signs. He would call the video replay room to illicitly obtain information about the opponents’ signals during the 2017 season, when Houston won the World Series. He also arranged for the installation of a television monitor just outside the Astros’ dugout that the team would use to decode signs and then relay the information to hitters in real time by banging on a trash can with a bat.
“Cora participated in both schemes, and through his active participation, implicitly condoned the players’ conduct,” Manfred said.
Accusations of similar behavior followed Cora from Houston to Boston, prompting MLB to launch a separate probe into the Red Sox. Cora’s departure doesn’t stop Manfred from leveling penalties that would prevent Cora from working in the game in 2020 or beyond.
A statement attributed to Red Sox owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner, CEO Sam Kennedy and Cora, said that the group met Tuesday to discuss Manfred’s ruling on the Astros, and the group “collectively decided that it would not be possible for Alex to effectively lead the club going forward.” The executives described it as “a sad day.”
“I do not want to be a distraction to the Red Sox as they move forward,” said Cora, 44. He did not offer an apology or address the allegations against him.
The situation left the Red Sox little choice, considering Manfred’s damning characterization of Cora as an architect of the Astros’ sign-stealing.
Cora’s departure marks the beginning of what could turn into an entirely new era for the Red Sox, a premier franchise seemingly entering a state of transition. In September, they fired veteran Dave Dombrowski, the freewheeling baseball operations chief who built their 2018 roster, and replaced him in October with Chaim Bloom, essentially his polar opposite. Bloom arrived following a successful stint with the Tampa Bay Rays, most recently as the vice president of baseball operations. There, Bloom helped transform the Rays into a perennial contender despite a microscopic budget.
The Red Sox want Bloom to keep them atop the standings without spending quite as much money. Boston led the major leagues in payroll in each of the past two seasons, the second of which ended with a 84-78 record and and no playoff berth.
Bloom will now hire a manager of his own, though with pitchers and catchers reporting to Fort Myers, Fla., for spring training in a month, it remains unclear who they will tap. He could also look to trade superstar outfielder Mookie Betts, a free agent after 2020, now or at the trade deadline, which would essentially mean pressing the reset button altogether. The Red Sox called a news conference at Fenway Park on Wednesday to discuss their future.
For now, however, baseball must reckon with the past two days, which saw the World Series-winning managers from 2017 and 2018 dismissed in stunning fashion and the integrity of the industry called into question. And the fallout could continue. Manfred’s report singled out Carlos Beltrán, a player on the 2017 Astros, as a part of the sign-stealing operation, the only player it named.
The New York Mets hired Beltrán as their manager this fall. The attention now moves to Queens.
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