On Monday, Cora returned to Minute Maid Park in Houston for the first time since MLB published the results of its investigation into those Astros teams and levied its punishment. He took the same approach.
“I’ve been telling the guys, and you guys can ask them if you guys want to, but they know I put myself in this situation. I handle the situation the way I’m going to handle it. I’m not afraid to talk about it. It’s part of who I am,” Cora said before an 11-2 loss. “It’s part of my present, it was part of the past, and it’s going to be part of my future. It’s something — I’m not proud of it — but at the same time, I’ve got a job to do.”
Cora’s Red Sox and the Astros collide as two of the best teams in the American League this season. The Red Sox have emerged as a surprise contender in a difficult division. The Astros are a half-game behind the Oakland Athletics in the AL West.
“Obviously, it’s not my proudest moments, right, the last 14, 15 months when we talk about Houston and myself. The fact that we’re playing good baseball and the story should be the Boston Red Sox against the Houston Astros, two of the best teams in the big leagues, it helps,” Cora said.
MLB completed its investigation into the Astros’ sign-stealing efforts in January 2020, a few months before the coronavirus paralyzed the globe and rendered it unsafe to have fans in the stands for games. Cora, who was the Astros’ bench coach during their 2017 title run, was named manager of the Red Sox before the 2018 season but was suspended when MLB completed its investigation before the 2020 season. Boston fired him at that time, only to hire him again this offseason when the suspension was over.
For the first few months of this season, road trips for the Astros amounted to something like a traveling atonement carnival. At almost every stop, and especially at stadiums home to teams whose playoff runs ended against Houston during the 2017 and 2018 postseasons, they have been met with boos, trash cans and more.
Even former Astros have endured heckling. Outfielder Josh Reddick got taunted as he tried to make his way back to the majors this spring, hearing from fans in places as far-flung as Salt Lake City (home of the Los Angeles Angels’ Class AAA affiliate) before being called up to join the Arizona Diamondbacks. Over and over, in city after city, Astros of that era have been reminded of the organization’s transgressions by fans who waited a year to offer their thoughts.
Cora said he leaves his door open for any players who want to bring up his role with the Astros, but no one has taken him up on the offer. He acknowledges he has largely escaped interrogation in his clubhouse by being open about it. For a variety of reasons, including the fact that his team has not yet played at Yankee Stadium, Cora has largely escaped fans’ ire, too. Some fans booed when his name was announced Monday. Others cheered.
“At this level, on this platform, it’s going to be tough forever. It’s not only when I come here. It’s going to be when I go to other places,” Cora said. “For people to judge me, I understand. There’s nothing I can do. There’s nothing I can do to change the past.”
While Cora didn’t wriggle with discomfort when asked about his role in the scandal, he was noticeably reluctant to gush about his Astros tenure, limiting recollections about those times and pivoting to memories made in Houston with the Red Sox.
“You ask me if I can come in here and have good memories? I have good memories,” Cora said, rattling off moments from Boston’s victory over the Astros in the 2018 AL Championship Series.
When asked about his relationship with the stars of those Astros teams, Cora also demurred.
“I really don’t want to go into that,” he said. “There’s a lot of stuff that happened through the investigation that was tough to swallow. But in the end, like I’ve been saying all along, I made a mistake. I went through a process. Then, after that, MLB did the right thing. But I’d rather stay away from personal relationships.”