Alex Cora’s discipline is expected to be ‘harsh’ after Astros fire manager and GM

Houston Astros manager AJ Hinch, left, and general manager Jeff Luhnow, right, before Game 2 of a best-of-five American League Division Series baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays in Houston, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
A.J. Hinch (left) and Jeff Luhnow. –AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch were fired by Astros owner Jim Crane after Major League Baseball suspended them for a year each following an investigation that discovered Houston cheated using technology en route to winning the 2017 World Series.

The Athletic and ESPN first reported the suspensions. Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who was bench coach for the Astros during the 2017 season, has not yet been punished. ESPN is reporting the discipline will be “harsh.”

Hinch’s suspension is tied for second-longest in MLB history for a manager. Only Pete Rose’s voluntarily accepted lifetime ban is longer.

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The Astros were also fined $5 million, the maximum allowed by the league, according to the Athletic. They must forfeit their first- and second-round picks in the 2020 and 2021 drafts, and ex-assistant Brandon Taubman, whose tirade directed at a female reporter resulted in his firing, has been placed on baseball’s ineligible list.

MLB will determine Cora’s punishment after the investigation into the Red Sox’ alleged illegal sign stealing is complete.

The Athletic first reported last week that the Red Sox illegally used the video replay room to steal signs, then used signals and baserunners to convey them to batters during the 2018 season.

“It’s cheating,” a member of the team, which won the World Series, told The Athletic. “If you’re using a camera to zoom in on the crotch of the catcher, to break down the sign system, and then take that information and give it out to the runner, then he doesn’t have to steal it.”

MLB spoke with Cora in November during its investigation into the Astros, whose alleged cheating was first reported on Nov. 12 by the Athletic.

Astros used an elaborate system involving a center-field camera to pick up signs and trash cans to convey the findings to batters during the 2017 regular season.

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Cora was, according to the Athletic, a “mastermind” of the sign-stealing set-up.

Sign stealing is allowed in baseball, but the use of techology to faciliate it is not.

In response to the report that the Red Sox cheated in 2018, the team released a statement last week: “We were recently made aware of allegations suggesting the inappropriate use of our video replay room. We take these allegations seriously and will fully cooperate with MLB as they investigate the matter.”

ESPN obtained the league’s report, which says Cora, as Houston’s bench coach, had an employee install the monitor that players would watch to determine a sign. The player would then bang a trash can to alert the batter which pitch was coming.

The report says that the scheme was “player-driven, and with the exception of Cora, [executed by] non-player staff.”

MLB has not punished any player. That includes Carlos Beltran, who played for the Astros in 2017. He was named Mets manager last fall.

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