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.
Here is the twitter link to share this post on Facebook, since the latter won’t allow Ethics Alarms links: https://twitter.com/CaptCompliance/status/1216855260695879682