Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch were fired by team owner Jim Crane Monday, the same day that MLB handed down one-season suspensions for their roles in Houston’s sign-stealing scandal. But consequences have yet to come to Alex Cora, who was named in MLB’s report as the only non-player directly involved in the scheme, because of the pending investigation into the 2018 Red Sox for a similar offense.
What will happen to the Red Sox manager? Here’s what the experts are saying:
An example has been made out of Houston.
With Luhnow and Hinch gone in Houston, it only makes sense for Cora get the axe, said YES Network’s Michael Kay.
“To have Crane come in and fire both of them […] leads me to believe that John Henry is going to fire Cora, because Cora is going to be punished. I’m not saying that this is a done deal, but if in fact the Red Sox are punished, the template has been set for John Henry. You’ve got to fire your manager.”
Former Red Sox infielder Lou Merloni shared similar insight on NBC Sports Boston Monday night.
“It’s hard to expect Alex to get anything less than what A.J. got,” Merloni said. “The precedent’s been set. I think John Henry should move on.”
Repeat offenses will hit Cora hard.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported yesterday that Cora’s punishment would be ‘harsh’, and on Tuesday morning, he laid out exactly what that could mean. The key point for Cora, Passan said, is his timeline. Rob Manfred issued a memo on Sept. 15, 2017, after the Red Sox were caught using an Apple Watch to steal signs, stating that “future violations of this type will be subject to more serious sanctions.”
Of course, both the Astros and Red Sox – and ultimately Cora – are under investigation for sign stealing that took place after this date.
“Cora built it in Houston, brought it to Boston, used it in Boston after the league specifically said ‘don’t do it anymore,'” said WEEI’s Mike Mutansky. “He is gonna be fired. It’s not a matter of if, but when.”
On NBC Sports Boston, The Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy said that there was no way he saw Cora’s punishment being less than what was handed down in Houston.
“He is the ringleader of this thing, of an organization that was warned,” Shaughnessy said.
“Alex Cora was singled out for being the one coach who really brought this to fruition,” Passan said on Golic and Wingo. “You can expect harsh penalties for the Red Sox. We’re talking draft picks, international money, and if Alex Cora somehow keeps his job, I will be extraordinarily surprised. The Red Sox, at this point, have reason to at least explore dismissing him before the investigation is over.”
Major League Baseball has punished the Astros for sign-stealing… But what will happen with former Houston Bench Coach and current Red Sox Manager, Alex Cora? @JeffPassan explains… pic.twitter.com/ZCTxh8PdE3
— Golic and Wingo (@GolicAndWingo) January 14, 2020
This investigation could take weeks or months, Passan said. The investigation into the Astros began in November.
A lifetime ban isn’t out of the question, but a 1-year ban could mean the same thing
Shaugnessy said a “Pete Rose type of ban […] would be totally Draconian and unfair”, but others don’t want to take the possibility of it off the table just yet.
“In that range of outcomes [is] a lifetime ban from baseball for Alex Cora,” Mutansky said. “I think it’s not a huge percentage chance, but it’s in the range of outcomes. I would not be screaming into a microphone saying they made the wrong call if they do that, because of how important this is.”
Even if a ban was temporary on paper, the impact of this scandal on his future employment – in Boston or elsewhere – could be greater.
“Although they may be free to come back in a year, baseball’s gonna turn a very cold shoulder to them for years and years to come,” WFAN’s Mike Francesca said Monday. “Cora’s in a bunch of hot water for Boston. If it is as bad as everybody thinks, then I think he could be looking at the same fate.”
It’s for this reason that Merloni believes the suspensions are harsh orders.
“There’s other ways to punish Alex Cora and organizations to make sure this never happens again,” Merloni said. “If you hit a guy a [$500,000] fine, on a guy that makes 1.2, 1.3 million, I think that thing kind of comes to a halt.”
The Red Sox will launch a rebuild.
With Chaim Bloom setting up for his first season, this might be the opportunity he’s looking for to bring in his own manager, anyway, Kay said.
“There’s a lot on the plate in terms of what they could do to the Red Sox,” The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham said on NESN Monday. “You could be talking about a season without their manager who won the World Series only 14 months ago.”
Abraham listed the qualified candidates already within the Red Sox system – Ron Roenicke, Jason Veritek, Carlos Febles – but as was shown with Cora and the Astros, there’s no telling just how deep this scandal weaved itself into the Red Sox system until the MLB investigation comes out.
“If you’re going to punish Alex Cora for his involvement with the banging scheme […] you better go down the entire roster,” said CBS Sports’ David Samson. “Are you going to suspend [Jose] Altuve? What about [George] Springer? [Carlos] Correa? Are you gonna go down the entire Astros and Red Sox roster and start suspending players?”