The Houston Astros received a harsh penalty for their sign-stealing scandal, suggesting they won’t be taking it easy on Red Sox manager Alex Cora.
MLB cracked down hard on the Houston Astros for their sign-stealing scandal and we can expect Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora to be next.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports that Astros GM Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch have been suspended for one year after an MLB investigation found the team guilty of using technology to steal signs during its World Series-winning 2017 season.
Houston has also been fined $5 million and will lose their first and second-round picks in the 2020 and 2021 drafts.
That’s a severe penalty for the organization. Cora must be feeling uneasy considering his connection to this scandal, which occurred during his tenure as bench coach for the Astros. MLB’s official statement implicates Cora as one of the ringleaders of a scheme to decode the signs of opposing teams using a camera positioned in center field. Players would watch the live feed of that camera on a monitor just outside of the dugout, then signal to the batter by banging on a trash can to communicate what type of pitch was coming.
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MLB is still investigating allegations that the Red Sox used video from the replay room to steal signs during the 2018 regular season, Cora’s first year as the team’s manager. Passan’s report indicates that harsh discipline is coming for Cora but Commissioner Rob Manfred is holding off until the completion of their investigation.
Sign stealing has been around for almost as long as the sport itself. Technically, it’s not even illegal but MLB views teams using technology to their advantage as crossing the line. They are clearly intent on bringing the hammer down with this punishment in order to send a message that discourages teams for following in their footsteps.
MLB warned Luhnow and Hinch that any further violation of these rules will result in being placed on the league’s permanently ineligible list. Repeat offenders will be punished to the full extent. MLB probably won’t jump to a permanent ban for Cora since this will only be his first punishment but his connection to both cases will be a factor.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Astros have fired Luhnow and Hinch in the wake of their suspensions. A similar fate could await Cora, especially if he is handed the same one-year suspension. The Red Sox won’t want their manager’s suspension hanging over them for a full season, nor do they want an interim manager who is merely keeping the seat warm until 2021.
As for punishing the team, the penalties shouldn’t be as steep as the ones levied against the Astros. What the Red Sox allegedly did in 2018 isn’t the elaborate scheme that the Astros were doing. The replay room was established to provide managers with immediate access to review plays in order to help them decide if they wish to challenge a call on the field. Hitters are also allowed to visit the replay room during games to study their swing. If they are guilty of anything, it’s looking at things they aren’t allowed to be watching on the same video MLB gives them access to view.
The Red Sox will be fined but the loss of four draft picks would be outrageous. MLB will come after Cora hard for being a repeat offender but the Red Sox shouldn’t be punished for what their manager did during his stint with another organization. It remains to be seen if Boston’s history stemming from John Farrell‘s Apple Watch fiasco will be taken into account, although that also was far less elaborate than Houston’s crimes.
Cora was at the helm of arguably the greatest season in franchise history and it’s a shame that their success will be tainted by this controversy. If the Red Sox decide to wash their hands of him and move on without giving Cora an opportunity to redeem himself, this sign-stealing fiasco could ultimately be his legacy.