“I come from suspension and I know how embarrassing that is and how tough that is, not only on you as a person but your family, your friends and the people that love you. Ten games, a year, two years, three years, it doesn’t matter. Being suspended is hell and you don’t want to go through that. I was very open to them and hopefully they understand that.”
—Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora on Major League Baseball’s threat of 10 game suspensions for pitchers caught cheating by using sticky substances on baseballs , a practice that has been against the rules for a hundred years.
Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote that Alex Cora, then serving a one year suspension from Major League baseball, didn’t “get it,” it being why cheating is wrong, what ethics is, and why it is important to act ethically in all aspects of life. He still doesn’t get it. Cora (you can catch up here) was suspended because he engineered and oversaw a season long sign-stealing scheme as bench coach in 2017 for the Houston Astros, who used it to inflate their offense and ultimately win the World Series. When it was finally discovered, Cora was the acclaimed manager of the Boston Red Sox, who succeeded the Astros as World Champions in 2018. The Red Sox had been cheating in their triumphant season too, though not as extensively, and an investigation blamed it all on a low-level coach., not Cora, though Cora was his supervisor, and the whole thing seemed oddly reminiscent of Cora’s cheating in Houston.
Cora’s cheating heart and brain cost A.J. Hinch, his mentor and manager in Houston, his job (he was suspended for a year too); also the Houston general manager. The team was fined millions and lost draft choices. Its championship is widely considered to be illegitimate, and the team is booed by the fans everywhere but Houston. Disgustingly but predictably, the Boston Red Sox, who had crashed and burned in 2020 with another manager, hired Cora back to run the team on the field as soon as his suspension was up. Their assumption was that if the team could start winning again, Boston fans wouldn’t care if the team was managed by Dracula, Jack the Ripper, or Donald Trump.
Cora has never issued an acceptable apology for his conduct in Houston, and the quote above shows us why. Alex doesn’t think cheating is wrong, and he doesn’t understand why it anyone would think cheating is wrong. He just thinks cheating results in unpleasant consequences if you get caught, and now believes that it isn’t worth the risk. Being punished is “hell,” and people you care about suffer. A retired bank robber or hit man could make exactly the same statement.
The Boston Herald, the city’s conservative paper, decided on this revealing headline for Cora’s statement, revealing for what it tells us about sports reporters: “Alex Cora has clear message for players after MLB releases memo on foreign substances.”
Nowhere in the story is there any hint that the writer or editor understands what Cora’s “clear message” to his players is: “Don’t cheat, unless you are absolutely certain that you won’t get caught.”
That’s all the Alex Cora learned from his suspension. And this is the man who leads the Boston Red Sox.