Red Sox manager Alex Cora was implicated in the Houston Astros’ cheating scandal, as detailed in a report released by the MLB Monday following an investigation.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch were each suspended for one season for their roles in the scheme. Team owner Jim Crane fired both of them following the suspension announcement.
The MLB report, an 11-page document, was the result of an investigation launched in mid-November when a report from The Athletic said the Astros illegally used technology to steal signs during the 2017 season, the year they won the World Series.
Here are the biggest takeaways from the report, which you can read here.
■ Cora, who was the Astros’ bench coach before becoming manager of the Red Sox, helped create the schemes the Astros used to illegally steal signs.
■ Cora is not being punished yet because MLB is still conducting its investigation of allegations of a similar practice by the Red Sox in 2018.
■ It started at the beginning of the 2017 season, which ended with the Astros winning the World Series.
■ Cora is the one exception to the scheme largely being conducted by players.
■ The Astros continued to use their system in 2017 after the Red Sox were caught using electronics to help steal and communicate signs and MLB warned all clubs against the practice.
■ No determination was made as to the effectiveness of the sign stealing in gaining a competitive advantage.
■ Astros owner Jim Crane did not know about it, but is “extraordinarily troubled.’’
■ Astros GM Jeff Luhnow denied having knowledge of the scheme but was held accountable because MLB deemed “it is the job of the general manager to be aware of the activities of his staff and his players, and to ensure that those activities comport with both standards of conduct set by Club ownership and MLB rules.’’
■ Astros manager A.J. Hinch knew about the scheme but did not create it or participate.
Alex Cora’s involvement
The report sums up Cora’s role as:
“Cora was involved in developing both the banging scheme and utilizing the replay review room to decode and transmit signs. 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 DOI completes its investigation of the allegations that the Red Sox engaged in impermissible electronic sign stealing in 2018 while Cora was the manager.’’
Here are the details on Cora’s involvement:
■ Cora began calling the replay review room “early in the season’’ in 2017 to get information on signs. Sometimes, the info was communicated via text message to a staffer wearing a smart watch on the bench or a nearby phone.
The scheme described here is similar to the type of scheme the Red Sox allegedly used during the 2018 season, which is being investigated.
It is illegal to use electronic devices on the bench; the Red Sox were fined an undisclosed amount in September 2017 for using a FitBit to relay sign information. That fine prompted commissioner Rob Manfred to issue a memo to all teams clarifying the rules around technology: “Thus, all Clubs were put on notice as of September 15, 2017 that any use of electronic equipment to steal signs would be dealt with more severely by my office,’’ the report reads. The report explains how the Astros knowingly used schemes involving technology after receiving the memo.
■ Two months into the 2017 season, Cora arranged for a staffer to install a monitor right outside the Astros dugout that showed the center field camera feed. Players normally used the feed in-game to adjust their swings. The Astros used it to decode signs. Players would determine a sign and send a message to the hitter by banging on a trash can.
Takeaway: It means Cora had an outsized role in the most notable scandal originally reported by The Athletic in November. The scheme is described as “player driven.’’
■ The investigation did not find the Astros used the banging scheme in 2018; but the replay room was used to decode signs and send them to the dugout. That process stopped sometime during the season “because the players no longer believed it was effective.’’
Takeaway: After Alex Cora left the team to take over as Red Sox manager, the use of the replay room dissipated. The investigation didn’t find evidence the Astros cheated during the 2018 postseason.
Why players weren’t punished
■ The commissioner says in the report that he will not discpline individual players because of a September 2017 decision to “hold a Club’s General Manager and Field Manager accountable for misconduct of this kind.’’
■ Players told investigators that had they been told to stop by Hinch, they would have stopped.
■ Manfred said that because Cora was “an active participant in the scheme’’ and that Hinch was aware, players may have thought the behavior was encouraged.