The one exception came roughly 30 minutes through a 45-minute news conference Tuesday at Boston’s Fenway Park, when those team officials were asked whether they believed the 2018 Red Sox beat the Los Angeles Dodgers “fair and square” in that fall’s World Series. For that one moment, principal owner John Henry and team president Sam Kennedy both abandoned their cautious talking points and answered the question head-on:
“Absolutely, yes,” they said.
Otherwise, the team’s brain trust shed little light on the scandal. Cora, they said, was dismissed — via mutual agreement — solely over his role in the sign-stealing scheme with the 2017 Houston Astros, for whom he served as bench coach, and not for anything that might have happened with the 2018 Red Sox, whom he managed. The decision to part ways, they said, was “tough” but ultimately “easy.” They don’t know who will manage the team in 2020, with spring training a month away, or even whether that manager will be on an interim or permanent basis.
“It’s a hard time,” Chaim Bloom, hired as the team’s general manager less than three months ago, said, “to do a manager search.”
The Red Sox learned of Cora’s 2017 transgressions with Houston, the executives said, at the same time as the public — on Monday afternoon, when the investigative report was released by MLB. They would not answer a question as to whether Cora had tipped them off in advance to what he had told investigators.
“Alex, by his own admission — and we agreed — played a central role in what went on in Houston,” Red Sox chairman Tom Werner said. “And we all agreed that it was wrong and that we had a responsibility as stewards [of the Red Sox franchise] to have a standard here where that sort of behavior is not acceptable.”
“His demeanor yesterday was exactly how [anyone] would expect it to be: He handled himself with class, with dignity, with respect,” Kennedy said of the internal discussions with Cora. “And it was all about what was in the best interests of the Boston Red Sox, not any one individual. We all came to the same conclusion, after talking through it together. . . . He expressed remorse. He apologized to us for the embarrassment this caused.”
Cora’s dismissal Tuesday brought to three the number of high-profile figures who have lost their jobs from this scandal, joining Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow, who were suspended for one year each — and subsequently fired by Astros owner Jim Crane — following the release Monday of MLB’s investigative report into electronic sign-stealing by the 2017 and 2018 Astros. Cora, as bench coach in 2017, was named throughout the report as a chief instigator of the scheme.
The Astros were also fined $5 million and stripped of their top two picks in each of the next two drafts.
Left unresolved is the status of New York Mets Manager Carlos Beltrán, a designated hitter on the 2017 Astros who was the only player named in the report as a part of the scheme — in which Astros hitters used a center field camera and a video monitor behind their dugout to steal the signs of opposing catchers, decode them, then transmit what pitch was coming next to their own hitters. The Mets have not addressed the status of Beltrán, who was hired in November, although Boston’s swift action on Cora could increase the pressure on them to make a similar move.
The cases of Cora and Beltrán are different in that Commissioner Rob Manfred said in the report that he would not impose punishment on players who participated in the scheme. Cora, however, is facing a substantial suspension — probably longer than the one-year suspensions of Hinch and Luhnow — when MLB’s investigation into the 2018 Red Sox is complete in the coming weeks.
Red Sox brass, meanwhile, went to great lengths Wednesday to praise Cora, who led the team to a World Series as a rookie manager in 2018, despite the actions he took that have now plunged them into a messy and embarrassing scandal. Werner called him “an extraordinary talent.” Henry said Cora was “a tremendous manager for us, on all levels.”
Asked whether Cora deserves another chance to manage in the big leagues in the future, Kennedy said: “I think he’ll go through a process of rehabilitation, so we’ll see what happens. It’d be hard to speculate. But he is an extreme talent.”