Is there possible redemption for former Red Sox manager Alex Cora?

BALTIMORE, MD - JULY 20: Manager Alex Cora #20 of the Boston Red Sox looks on during the game against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on July 20, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - JULY 20: Manager Alex Cora #20 of the Boston Red Sox looks on during the game against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on July 20, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images) /

The Boston Red Sox have now moved on from former manager Alex Cora, but what about Cora? Is there a road to professional redemption?

During the 2018 season, manager Alex Cora pushed all the right buttons including some electronic ones that may have contributed to a regular-season record 108 team wins. Game and roster management was exceptional, especially when Dave Dombrowski didn’t fortify a tattered bullpen with additional reinforcements. Players were kept fresh, involved, with no internal clubhouse issues surfacing.

If 2018 was a template for managerial perfection, the 2019 season did the opposite starting in spring training. Cora took a different path, especially with the delicate psyche and arms of his staff. Preparation became more of an extended vacation than gearing up for a title defense. That should have become a learning experience but we will never know if Cora absorbed that or any other failures embedded in the regular season disappointment.

All that is now unnecessary. And for Cora, his managerial star has now collapsed into a black hole of a career that may never be resuscitated. But baseball fans and management can be a forgiving lot and maybe an independent league team will need a manager – someday. Meanwhile, the curtain closed on two Astros and quickly.

Are there any nuggets of positives that can be extracted from this mess? The first target for how the fallout was personally handled is the former General Manager of the Houston Astros – Jeff Luhnow. Luhnow’s tactic is reminiscent of the iconic Sargent Shultz character from “Hogan’s Hero’s” with either “I see nothing” or “I know nothing.”

"“It was executed by lower-level employees working with [Cora],” Ludnow said in a statement, per The Washington Post. “I am deeply upset that I wasn’t informed of any misconduct because I would have stopped it.”"

Manager A.J. Hinch displayed a different tactic with his comeuppance. Hinch – as investigators determined – was aware of the situation, but did nothing of merit to stop it except a monitor destroying temper tantrum and showing all the managerial fortitude of the cowardly lion. When others ignored his requests to cease operations, Hinch did nothing. No consequences. No pleading his case to management. Nothing. Hinch used the “I didn’t endorse it” fall back. So much for Hinch’s profile in courage.

"“While the evidence consistently showed I didn’t endorse or participate in the sign stealing practices, I failed to stop them and I am deeply sorry,” Hinch said in a statement."

If there was an ethical report card being issued both Hinch and especially Luhnow would be assigned remedial assignments, but owner Jim Crane responded swiftly – he fired both. Crane’s business took an internal hit and a catastrophic hit to the brand. The Astros may have a long road to recovery and Crane’s organization was already implicated in some nasty public relations snafu’s wanted no more.

Now it is Cora’s turn to be scrutinized in this sordid affair and at first glance, Cora appears to be a villain and that goes beyond his capacity and that of co-culprit Carlos Beltran culpability in mastering trash cans and electronics. If Hinch did plead for a cease and desist that was ignored by Cora it reflects rather poorly on Cora as a team player. Cora obviously places respect of baseball authority into the trash can he so judiciously used in his scheme.

The Red Sox management did receive an unexpected bonus with the quick and decisive action of Crane. No hesitation, delay, or defensive action – a quick-firing followed by a corporate spin on a new order of doing business. The Red Sox now had a model from the Astros and the commissioner on what will happen and a response that resonated positively. Cora and the Red Sox parted ways despite an incomplete investigation – an intelligent move by both Cora and the Red Sox.

Will Cora have his tattered career rehabilitated? I like Cora as a manager. Cora was an excellent fit for the vociferous Boston market which he had experienced as a player. As a player, Cora was best defined by the baseball term “utility player” or simply not skillful enough to be a regular. That gives a certain view on just how to keep twenty-five diverse players involved.

Cora had the advantage of being at the right age where he was not perceived as crusty conventionalism from another era, but one more closely in tune with those he managed. Bagging a World Series title – and that was done without skulduggery – is no task to be dismissed. Cora’s first season was a remarkable testament to his managerial skill – even with his ethically demented sigh-stealing.

The most significant part of his own professional reconstruction is just how Cora manages not the teams, or how he performed on ESPN, as a player, or even as a poor imitation of a baseball James Bond. It is not how you handle success but how you respond and handle failures and Cora now has a helping of failure, humiliation, and embarrassment.

Cora’s first step towards reconstruction took place with his mutually agreed upon dismissal. Certainly, a more regretting and apologetic tone that Luhnow and even Hinch displayed. A tab of professional aplomb under dismal circumstances that were all self-induced. What next in the process?

"“I want to thank John, Tom, Sam, the players, our coaching staff and the entire Red Sox organization,” Cora said in the team’s official statement. “I especially want to thank my family for their love and support. We agreed today that parting ways was the best thing for the organization. I do not want to be a distraction to the Red Sox as they move forward.”"

The pending suspension may release a more aggressive and defiant approach, but that is – for me – rather doubtful. A full admission and no nuances of the buck-passing displayed by Hinch and Luhnow would be a far more professionally advantageous approach and potentially be of considerable importance in any subsequent moves to have the expected suspension minimized.

Cora is not done in baseball. I see this as a temporary career killer and not the poison pill unless the suspension is for life with no leniency ever being offered. A Pete Rose approach of persistent denial only weakens any baseball hierarchy support and even diminishes public support.  The best approach is honesty and hopefully, a lesson learned for others.

Next. Red Sox and Alex Cora part ways. dark

Cora is done with the Red Sox and certainly, Red Sox fans will not look lightly upon Cora especially if the franchise receives punishment. But Cora may be back and how he functions under this dark cloud may determine if he should be back.