Breaking: Major League Baseball Clobbers The Houston Astros For Their Sign-Stealing Scheme, And Red Sox Manager Alex Cora Is In The Cross-Hairs

In November, I proposed that the Houston Astros should be punished severely for their sign-stealing during the 2017 and 2018 seasons, the first of which resulted in a World Series Championship. Major League Baseball’s investigation is complete, and today the wrath of the Baseball Gods rained down on the team. MLB didn’t take my advice (stripping the team of its titles), but the actions it dis take were surprisingly and appropriately tough.

The Astros, you will recall,  used illegal cameras and video monitors to steal the signs of opposing catchers at Houston’s Minute Maid Park, then signal those signs to their hitters before pitches by banging on trash cans. This occurred throughout the 2017 regular season and postseason, and during the 2018 season as well. Baseball’s Commissioner Rob Manfred suspended Astros Manager A.J. Hinch and General Manager Jeff Luhnow, fined the team $5 million (the most allowed under the MLB rules)  and took away the team’s top two draft picks in both 2020 and 2021. Hours after the announcement, the Astros fired both Hinch and Luhlow, with owner Jim Crane  saying, “We need to move forward with a clean slate. [We] will not have this happen again on my watch.”

All of this is as it should be. The MLB investigation indicated that Hinch had not been involved in the sign-stealing, but was aware of it and allowed it to continue.

Now the saga moves on to, <sigh>, the Boston Red Sox.

Current Red Sox manager Alex Cora was the Astros bench coach in 2017, and the investigation showed him to be the primary instigator of the Astros’ cheating method. Not only that, but it recently came to light, as I reported last week, that the Boston club under Cora employed another sign-stealing process  during their 2018 championship season. I wrote in that post,

I hate to say this, as I like and admire Boston manager Alex Cora, but he was the bench coach for the Astros when they were cheating, and the first year manager of the Sox in 2018. I find this suspicious.

My suspicions were well-founded, as Manfred  made clear today:

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.

It sounds as if Cora will receive at least as severe a punishment as Hinch, and the word from Boston is that he will likely be fired as well. If so, it will be one of the most precipitous falls from grace in baseball history. Going into last season, Cora was a Boston hero, the team’s first minority skipper and the 2018 AL Manager of the Year who had led the Red Sox to a World Series title and the team’s best record in a century.

Well, he deserves his fate. I salute baseball for its clear statement that the integrity of the game is paramount.

As a lifetime Red Sox fan, however, this hurts. A lot.


Sources: Washington Post, MLB Trade Rumors 1, 2

Here is the twitter link to share this post on Facebook, since the latter won’t allow Ethics Alarms links:

18 thoughts on “Breaking: Major League Baseball Clobbers The Houston Astros For Their Sign-Stealing Scheme, And Red Sox Manager Alex Cora Is In The Cross-Hairs

  1. The money doesn’t probably hurt too much, but Houston has graduated several of their top prospects in the last few years and traded a few others. Losing four top draft picks is potentially very painful.

    But I’m glad MLB punished Houston.

    Unfortunately, Boston’s farm is just as weak right now (after Casas, there’s…Dalbec?…maybe Groome?), and a similar punishment would be horrible for them.

  2. I agree Joel, but what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If the infraction is the same, the penalty should be the same.

    • dd,

      I completely agree. I wasn’t suggesting that Boston, if found guilty, should not be penalized the same. It was just that the same penalty might hurt them even more, prospect-wise, than Houston.

      • They won’t be penalized the same, because the cheating was less egregious. It didn’t involve unauthorized equipment, and real time signaling to batters. What the Red Sox did wasn’t formally prohibited until 2018. My guess is that the Sox punishment will be somewhat more lenient, except for Cora.

        • Thanks for the corrections. Yeah, I just read a couple of articles and it sounds like his tenure in Boston may be over and he might be facing a suspension as well.

  3. *sigh*

    Well, I can’t argue with anything that MLB or Crane did. The punishment hurts, but it also hurts that the Astros did such a thing in the first place.

    I can only hope that they are able to hire some good people to replace Hinch and Luhnow.

    I can also hope that everyone else in baseball will take note and heed these lessons. We don’t need a competition for who can be the best cheaters.

    • Yeah, I’m starting to think we’ve already got that in the NFL. I’m not following the baseball story as closely as I should, and I am grievously disappointed in the Astros. W#hat thay did comes close to Organized Crime. I thought that they were better than that.

  4. Does the lack of punishment of any team players or change to team results in the year not send a signal that it is OK to cheat? The ends justify the means here. If a player gets a ring and there are no take backs, how sufficient is this MLB punishment. After all it was the players (pitchers and catchers, at least) who put the cheating into the game, changing what pitches were thrown.

    • Baseball precedent precludes taking away championships. The 1919 Reds kept their WS title, though the Series was thrown by the Black Sox. Decades after NY Giants’ Bobby Thompson’s immortal home run to win the 1951 NL play-offs, it was revealed that the New York Giants manager Leo Durocher used an illegal sign-stealing system. Teams won titles with key players using banned steroids. I advocated stripping the Astros of their titles, but I can see good reasons not to.

      • MLB can stand on precedent or it could signal that the old ways, like cheating, won’t be tolerated. Right now there are barely consequences for players who participate in mgmt orchestrated cheating.

        Pretty soon I may start watching football again.

        • Oh, I think the punishment for the Astros signals that. Losing four draft choices is huge. Both the Gm and the manager are ruined, maybe forever. The lines between prohibited cheating and accepted gamesmanship in baseball is full of gray areas, and always will be. I wrote a paper onthis! Copies available on request!

    • Will A.J. Hinch be driving a beer truck from here on out? Shoeless A.J.? Charlie Hinchle? What’s the appropriate rest of his professional life? Is he even fifty yet?

        • So he gets a vacation, starts out in a season or so as a “consultant” and he’s managing again at a higher salary than his current one for the Yankees or Dodgers or Giants by mid-season 2021? Must have you know who as his agent.

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