Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora has been implicated in a massive cheating scandal in 2017. Should team ownership take action?
During the mid-evening hours of Sunday, September 8, the Boston Red Sox fired their president of baseball operations, Dave Dombrowski. The abrupt departure set off a flurry of questions as to what direction their soon to be third place team might take.
While the frustrated Boston media was trying to get answers, one of the immediate questions was whether Alex Cora would be returning next season as the manager of the Red Sox. Cora himself was unaware of his future job status when he met with the beat writers the following afternoon, a few hours ahead of the final game against Yankees in a four-game series.
Following a confusing 24 hours, Red Sox CEO Sam Kennedy finally disclosed that Cora, in fact, would be returning for the 2020 season.
Aside from J.D. Martinez opting into the third year of his contract for the upcoming season and some Mookie Betts extension/trade talk, it had been a fairly quiet start to the hot stove season. That all changed during the late evening of Monday, November 11, hours after the first day of the annual GM meetings in Phoenix had wrapped up.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic published a bombshell report disclosing that the Houston Astros used a highly sophisticated scheme to use electronic devices during the 2017 season in order to steal signs from opposing catchers.
More specifically, a hidden camera was positioned in center field while a team staffer would be in the tunnel behind the dugout decoding the signs in real-time provided by the video feed from that device. If the next pitch was determined to be off-speed, such as a slider or change up, the staffer would bang on a trash can twice to alert the hitter. If the next pitch was determined to be a fastball, no sounds or alerts would be made.
Mike Fiers was cited as a primary source, with several others remaining unnamed.
Rosenthal wrote that two uniformed Astros, a struggling hitter and coach, devised the system. The article stops short of saying they masterminded the process but says unequivocally that they initiated it.
Alex Cora served as the Astros bench coach throughout the 2017 season before departing to manage the Red Sox. Many New Englanders were forced to consider the possibility that perhaps their current manager was the Astros coach-in-question.
A.J. Hinch and Jeffrey Luhnow each declined to comment on the scandal or the investigation. Cora did tell WEEI in a radio interview that he had in fact spoken with Major League Baseball on the matter but did not comment any further.
Beltran, after being named in the second Rosenthal report, categorically denied taking part in any such activities.
Commissioner Rob Manfred has said on multiple occasions that the consequences from this scandal could potentially be very severe pending the final outcome of the investigation, which is expected to take several weeks.
Other recent scandals
The most recent scandal that shook Major League Baseball was back in 2013 when a Miami newspaper revealed a list of clients who were linked to Anthony Bosch, a glorified steroid dealer who operated an office disguised as an anti-aging clinic called Biogenesis of America.
A few prominent players on the list were Ryan Braun, Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta, and most notably Alex Rodriguez. Everyone on the list with the exception of Rodriguez agreed to serve out the mandatory 50-game suspension without appealing.
Rodriguez vehemently denied any wrongdoing and immediately embarked on a highly publicized battle against MLB, who had slapped the Yankee slugger with an unprecedented 214 game suspension, which was later reduced to 162 games after a lengthy appeals process.
Another war was simultaneously being waged between Rodriguez and Bosch, the latter of whom was cooperating with MLB’s investigation into the scandal, and received so much heat from A-Rod’s camp that death threats were sent to him via text messages.
In an interview with 60 Minutes, Commissioner Manfred confirmed that Bosch had indeed received a death threat from an individual who was known associate of Alex Rodriguez.
Bosch was later prosecuted by the federal government and sentenced to 32 months in prison for his steroid distribution. His clientele extended far beyond MLB and included dozens of high school and college students.
In December of 2007, Senator George Mitchell published a lengthy report following a 20-month investigation into how rampant steroid use was in MLB. 89 players were listed in the report as having used performance-enhancing drugs. Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte headlined that list.
Clemens denied ever using steroids despite several witnesses implicating him as having been a prolific user in the late ’90s and early 2000’s. The Yankee ace testified before congress about the allegations and was subsequently rung up on multiple charges of perjury and lying to congress. After a mistrial, he was acquitted on all counts in the second trial.
In the aftermath of the Mitchell Report, MLB has implemented stricter drug testing policies and tougher suspensions.
The case against Cora
The steroid cases throughout the years have been fairly isolated. Since the turn of the century, anyone would be hard-pressed to look at the previous nineteen World Series winners and say it was ultimately won due to one or two players on the team using performance-enhancing drugs.
What makes this current Astros scandal historic is that dozens of members of the organization from the players, coaches, front office executives, and low-level staffers allegedly conspired together to form this systematic plan.
It’s a level of sophistication unlike any MLB has ever seen in his 106-year history of the league, which culminated into a World Series win. And the manager of the Red Sox has been identified as having played a central role in the scandal.
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The Red Sox have been somewhat of an image-conscious organization. From changing the name of the iconic Yawkey Way to banning a fan for life in the wake of the Adam Jones controversy.
They have yet to have major controversy involving high profile members of the organization outside of Steven Wright. Nor have they signed players with a history of previous suspensions to large contracts.
Once MLB releases its final report on this scandal, top Boston executives will possibly be forced to weigh how big of a liability Cora could be for the team going forward. Especially if the league concludes his role was large.
General Managers and Chief Baseball Officers around the league will be looking intently to see what the punishment ultimately ends up being for top Astros executive, Jeffrey Luhnow. They will be subject to the same punishment or worse. Which will raise the stakes for teams who employ coaches/managers with a history of cheating.
The shenanigans in Houston will follow Cora for the rest of his career. All future success under Cora’s leadership in Boston will likely be heavily observed and scrutinized by rivals. Does Red Sox ownership want that dark cloud hovering over the organization for the rest of his tenure?
The Astros cheating scandal badly damaged the integrity of the sport. If the Red Sox consider themselves to be an organization of great integrity, they should fire Alex Cora if the allegations are true.