Alex Cora Ousted by Red Sox After Sign-Stealing Scandal

Baseball|Alex Cora Ousted by Red Sox After Sign-Stealing Scandal

Cora, who spent two seasons as the Boston manager, was Houston’s bench coach in 2017 and has been implicated in an M.L.B. report on the Astros’ cheating.

Alex Cora Ousted by Red Sox After Sign-Stealing Scandal
Alex Cora and the Red Sox agreed to part ways on Tuesday. He became their manager ahead of the 2018 season and led them to the World Series title that year. Credit...Reinhold Matay/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

The reverberations of the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal reached Boston on Tuesday night when Alex Cora — the former Houston bench coach who was implicated as a mastermind of the scheme in an M.L.B. report on the matter — lost his job as manager of the Red Sox.

Cora helped the Astros win the World Series in 2017, then joined the Red Sox and immediately led them to the 2018 title. Now he is gone, with the team announcing that its ownership and Cora had “mutually agreed to part ways.”

M.L.B. investigators identified Cora as a central figure in an illicit scheme to steal opposing catchers’ signs via a video feed and communicate them to the Astros’ hitters, according to a report issued Monday by Commissioner Rob Manfred.

Cora’s departure — which came a day after the announcement of yearlong suspensions for Astros Manager A.J. Hinch and General Manager Jeff Luhnow, who were subsequently fired — further clouded the future of the Mets’ new manager, Carlos Beltran. An outfielder with Houston in 2017, Beltran was the only the Astros player implicated in the report.

The report called the operation “player driven” — with the exception of Cora’s efforts. While Manfred spared Beltran by deciding not to discipline players, the Astros and the Red Sox have now acted independently of M.L.B., and the Mets could face pressure to do so as well. The report cited Beltran as part of a group of players who “discussed that the team could improve on decoding opposing teams’ signs and communicating the signs to the batter.”

A Mets spokesman said on Tuesday night that the team had no comment, leaving Beltran in a precarious sort of status quo. The Red Sox said they would hold a news conference on Wednesday at Fenway Park to expand on their Tuesday statement.

“Given the findings of the Commissioner’s ruling,” it said, “we collectively decided that it would not be possible for Alex to effectively lead the club going forward.”

The statement was issued jointly with Cora, who thanked the team’s executives and called his two seasons with the Red Sox “the best years of my life.” Cora, 44, added that he did not want to be a distraction for the team, but his statement did not include an apology or an admission of wrongdoing, either with the Astros or with the Red Sox.

A report published last week in The Athletic said the 2018 Red Sox had also broken the rules by using technology to steal signs. According to that report, which cited three unnamed people who were with the Red Sox that season, some players would use the video replay room, which is intended for teams to use to determine whether to challenge on-field calls, to decode sign sequences during games.

M.L.B. is probing those allegations against Boston, and Manfred said in his report that he would wait until that investigation is over to determine Cora’s punishment. But considering that Luhnow and Hinch were both suspended for a year — even though they were found not to be involved in the planning or execution of the Astros’ ploy — it stands to reason that discipline for Cora could be even more severe, especially if the Boston accusations are confirmed.

For the Red Sox, Monday’s report was damaging enough to force them to act on Cora. The league said it had conducted at least 68 interviews and reviewed thousands of videos and documents, and the nine-page report repeatedly referenced Cora’s involvement.

The Astros used video equipment to decipher a catcher’s signs, and that information was relayed to batters by various methods — most often by having someone bang on a nearby trash can with a bat; the number of hits on the trash can indicated what type of pitch was coming.

“Cora was involved in developing both the banging scheme and utilizing the replay review room to decode and transmit signs,” the report said. “Cora participated in both schemes, and through his active participation, implicitly condoned the players’ conduct.”

Cora was considered a rising star during his time with the Astros, and had already agreed to become the Red Sox manager before the end of the 2017 World Series. He held many of the now-popular qualifications for managing jobs — he is a strong, bilingual communicator with deep family roots in the game, had recently played in the major leagues and is comfortable with the news media after his years as an analyst for ESPN. After hiring Cora, the Red Sox — at his request — sent a delegation to his native Puerto Rico to help after Hurricane Maria.

While the Red Sox owners seemed eager to fire General Manager Dave Dombrowski last September as the team slumped to an 84-78 record, they had no desire to lose Cora — until the Astros’ saga unfolded.

“This is a sad day for us,” the statement said. “Alex is a special person and a beloved member of the Red Sox. We are grateful for his impact on our franchise. We will miss his passion, his energy and his significant contributions to the communities of New England and Puerto Rico.”

The Red Sox — whose use of an Apple Watch in the dugout in 2017 prompted Manfred to issue a leaguewide warning against electronic sign-stealing — may soon face other consequences from M.L.B. for their 2018 behavior. Besides suspending Luhnow and Hinch, M.L.B. stripped the Astros of their first- and second-round draft picks for the next two years and fined the team $5 million.

David Waldstein and Benjamin Hoffman contributed reporting.

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