Boston Red Sox: Speculating on Alex Cora’s fate

BOSTON - SEPTEMBER 30: Boston Red Sox Manager Alex Cora responds to questions from reporters during an end-of-season press conference at Fenway Park in Boston on Sep. 30, 2019. (Photo by Nic Antaya for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON - SEPTEMBER 30: Boston Red Sox Manager Alex Cora responds to questions from reporters during an end-of-season press conference at Fenway Park in Boston on Sep. 30, 2019. (Photo by Nic Antaya for The Boston Globe via Getty Images) /

Let’s speculate as to what will happen to former Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora.

It is easy to sense that Alex Cora‘s trouble isn’t finished. The Boston Red Sox got ahead of the runaway train, either firing him or letting him resign before he could be fired Tuesday. Every lick of sense in your mind tells you the apparent mastermind of two off-field electronic sign-stealing baseball scandals is due to be hit with a more powerful nuke than those dropped on now-former Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch.

Until commissioner Rob Manfred decides what to do about Cora, we can only speculate. Of course, there’s about as much shortage of speculation about Cora now as there is snow in the Pacific Northwest, accompanied by assorted variations on the theme of Cora requiring nothing short of permanent baseball cancellation.

When Manfred issued his Astrogate report and suspended Luhnow and Hinch for all 2020, we didn’t even have to wait for Astros owner Jim Crane to execute them before knowing just how deep Cora’s hands were in the scheme. The report mentions him eleven times, and in an example of uncommon audacity, he took that scheme to another team. There, he developed another comparable espionage operation despite an MLB directive banning such video room reconnaissance.

The commissioner’s discretion in disciplining those caught devising and operating off-field electronic sign theft allows Manfred as broad a stroke as he wishes. He suspended Luhnow for, essentially, unreported guilty knowledge; he suspended Hinch for knowing about but not doing a thing (beyond a couple of destroyed monitors) to stop the Astro Intelligence Agency Cora apparently created. Cora’s being a kind of traveling spymaster from team to team caught in such espionage could get him banished far longer. Even permanently, if Manfred sees fit.


It was easy to ache for Hinch, as sensitively intelligent a manager as baseball has seen, particularly because thus far he’s the only Astrosoxgate figure to express even a modicum of remorse for what the espionage did to the Astros’ dominant and forward-thinking reputation and, implicitly, the opponents they vanquished with horseshoes in the gloves. When the Boston Red Sox announced Cora’s purge there was no such expression from the now-former manager, whose own reputation as a forward-thinking stand-up man now wears a scarlet C. (And not for “captain.”)

Related Story. Red Sox part ways with Cora. light

Red Sox Nation thus has something harsher to come to terms with than Astroworld, which has harsh enough truths to face, as does everyone who loves the game deeply. Seeing Hinch and Cora go from geniuses to pariahs within 24 hours of each other stings only slightly less than the sting of what their abetted or operated cheating lays upon the game. Seeing it in Cora regarding back-to-back World Series champions is like watching a favourite cousin led on the proverbial perp walk to infamy.

In a lifetime of baseball loving and watching, I’ve seen moments of transcendence among which one night in the life of Alex Cora, 12 May 2004, ranks securely in the top twenty. He was a Dodger then, known as a student of the game who wasn’t a big hitter, but also a player known for doing the little things the right and timely way, who checked in at the Dodger Stadium plate in the seventh inning and in a single plate appearance played far over his own head.

With outfielder Jason Grabowski aboard on a leadoff walk, Cora squared off against Cubs pitcher Matt Clement and opened by taking ball one up and away and a strike near the outside corner. The next pitch: ball two away. Then, a foul off. That’s where the show really shifted into gear, and with Cora and Clement not once going to ball three—Cora fouled the next eleven pitches off.

I’ll let Vin Scully take it from there.

That sort of determination makes a man memorable even if only for a single plate appearance, and would have assured Cora a prime rate place in the memory bank had his career shown nothing much more than that. It’s the same sort of determination in the game he loves deeply that led him to consummate a respectable playing career and become a major league coach and manager in the first place.

He was never bereft of gamesmanship including sign stealing, having learned the recognitions and executions in his youth and college playing days. However savvy he was about things on the field and above it, there seemed little enough to suggest that he had anything like a godfather’s mind for subterfuge. The Red Sox probably saw little enough of it when they hired him, and it’s fair to say the Olde Towne Team was blindsided by the enlightenment.

Boston Red Sox
Boston Red Sox /

Boston Red Sox

Owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner, president Sam Kennedy, and freshly-minted general manager Chaim Bloom faced the press Wednesday afternoon in the wake of Cora’s purge. They affirmed what we might only have suspected Tuesday, that once the Manfred report dropped Cora had little choice, even with a 24-hour lag, but to own up to his Red Sox overseers and admit he’d masterminded the AIA, if not the Red Sox Reconnaissance Ring.

“Alex was professional, understanding that he had made a mistake, so after a couple of conversations, we all mutually agreed that we needed to part ways,” said Werner to the gathering. “He admitted that what he did was wrong, but that doesn’t mitigate, in our opinion, the extraordinary talent that he has. And we continue to be very fond of Alex.”

“I think Alex is an incredibly talented manager, and accomplished great things with us,” added Kennedy when asked whether he thinks Cora’s major league managing days are history. “And he’s now—he expressed remorse; he apologized yesterday to us for the embarrassment that this caused. And I think, he’ll go through a process of rehabilitation and we’ll see what happens. It’d be hard to speculate, but he is an extreme talent.”

It inflicts a stain upon a Boston Red Sox team that shook off its 20th Century history of extraterrestrial calamity to become baseball’s first of the 21st Century not just to break its (actual or alleged) curse but to win four World Series at all, never mind within a fifteen-year time frame. A stain that includes the tarnish upon the fourth of those triumphs, which Cora managed in his maiden voyage as a major league manager.

Last September, Rangers pitcher Mike Minor nailed his 200th strikeout of 2019 against the Red Sox, with a little naughty behaviour, seemingly: first baseman Ronald Guzman charged then pulled back on Chris Owings‘s little popup, letting the ball hit the foul grass, before Minor caught Owings looking at strike three. “I’m just happy our guys are playing the game the right way,” Cora told reporters after the game. “We’re playing hard until the end. It’s been two weeks we’ve been eliminated, but we’ve been going at it the right way. That’s all I ask. I don’t manage the Rangers.”

When Cora’s heavy hand in Astrosoxgate emerged, Minor himself couldn’t resist, tweeting, “But but he plays the game the right way… whatcha got Pete?” (Alluding to Boston Globe writer Peter Abraham, who zapped Minor and the Rangers over Abraham calling for an asterisk on Minor’s milestone punchout.) To which another tweeter shot back, “Sounds like what we got is a confirmed cheater in Cora and – still – a guy whose team purposefully dropped a foul ball so he could record a strikeout. Different degrees on the same spectrum.”

A deliberate defensive muff to enable a milestone strikeout is petty sidewalk crime. The espionage of Astrosoxgate is as maximum a felony as baseball can imagine. The Minor strikeout was simply the next-to-last out of a Rangers win that meant nothing to the races from which they and the Red Sox were already eliminated. Astrosoxgate enabled a pair of World Series champions whose titles are now suspect at minimum.

Is the Red Sox curse set to return?. dark. Next

Hinch’s genuine and prompt remorse may yet prove to leave him with a better chance of survival and return in due course. Saying little more upon his execution than how much he didn’t “want to be a distraction to the Red Sox as they move forward, Cora may yet discover that his chances of either are reduced to two: none; and, don’t-even-think-about it.