For most modern baseball fans, cheating means using steroids or performance-enhancing drugs. The Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox, however, did things a little differently; they electronically stole signs. On Monday, former club learned their fate, as Major League Baseball handed down a sizable punishment.
While the Astros have already started making personnel changes, the Red Sox are waiting in limbo. What does Houston’s punishment mean for the A.L. East club and their manager, Alex Cora?
The Houston Astros’ punishment for stealing signs
As initially reported by The Athletic, the Houston Astros cheated during their run to the 2017 World Series title. The club used a camera in center field to observe the opposition catcher’s signals, then relied on a variety of techniques—most notable banging on a trash can—to warn the batter what pitch was on the way.
After a lengthy investigation, Major League Baseball levied their ruling on Monday afternoon. While no players were punished, both general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch received one-year suspensions; both men have since been fired. The club was also fined $5 million and will lose their first and second-round picks in the next two drafts.
While that punishment is more severe than most, there’s still some debate over whether it went far enough. Some feel that commissioner Rob Manfred sent a message to the entire league; others contend two suspensions, four draft picks, and what amounts to pocket change for a sports franchise is less valuable than a World Series title.
Alex Cora’s role in the sign-stealing scandal
Although Alex Cora is no longer a member of the Houston Astros organization, he still featured heavily in Rob Manfred’s ruling.
Cora, who served as the Astros’ bench coach during the season in question, “began to call the replay review room on the replay phone to obtain the sign information.” Witnesses also told Major League Baseball that the scheme was “player-driven and, with the exception of Cora, non-player staff, including individuals in the video replay review room, had no involvement.”
The former bench coach didn’t receive any formal punishment since his current club, the Boston Red Sox, are under investigation for their own sign-stealing scandal. Manfred, however, still made it clear that Cora had done quite a bit wrong.
“Cora was involved in developing both the [trash-can] banging scheme and utilizing the replay review room to decode and transmit signs,” the report explained. “Cora participated in both schemes, and through his active participation, implicitly condoned the players’ conduct. I will withhold determining the appropriate level of discipline for Cora until after the [Department of Investigations] completes its investigation of the allegations that the Red Sox engaged in impermissible electronic sign stealing in 2018 while Cora was the manager.”
What does this mean for Alex Cora and the Boston Red Sox?
As of now, no one is sure what Alex Cora’s future holds. Based on Monday’s ruling, however, it doesn’t seem good.
Based on Rob Manfred’s ruling, we know that the former Astros’ bench coach was actively involved in sign-stealing; it’s hard to imagine that he wasn’t similarly hands-on in Boston. While manager AJ Hinch didn’t support sign-stealing, he still received a one-year suspension for failing to stop or adequately report the behavior. Cora’s punishment will have to be even more severe.
Right now, no one knows when the ax will fall on the Boston Red Sox. You can only delay the inevitable for so long, though; the club should probably start looking for a new manager sooner rather than later.