Red Sox

Alex Cora backtracks from holding team meeting in New York, offers muddy explanation

Alex Cora backtracks from holding team meeting in New York, offers muddy explanation

NEW YORK -- Let's just call it the team meeting that wasn't.

On Wednesday, the trade deadline passed without the Red Sox making a move. President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski then very frankly acknowledged that he would've been more inclined to deal if the Red Sox were closer to first place.

Cora mentioned on Thursday he'd call a team meeting in New York to make sure everyone knew the stakes the rest of the season. Then he rethought the meeting after the Red Sox were swept by the Rays later that night.

On Friday in New York, he sounded flustered while describing his intentions, laughing nervously when asked if had changed his mind or was just kidding.

"All of the above," Cora said. "What I said two days ago is we might address where we're at after the trading deadline. Somebody asked me about the mood in the clubhouse and if they were down because we didn't add somebody that day. I said we might address it, we might not, I might talk to the guys about where we're at. They know where we're at. Then somebody asked me yesterday about the meeting and I said I might do it tomorrow, I might not. And now . . ."

On Thursday, Cora had said that calling such a meeting was "not common at all." On Friday, he clarified that what he had made sound like a formal meeting was actually nothing more than his normal day-to-day interactions.

"We always talk," he said. "The way I said it, yeah it sounded that way, but we always address stuff during the day. It can be in the food room, in the hitters' meeting, pitchers' meeting. We always try to find something positive we're doing, or if we're not doing something right, just address it. We do it on a daily basis. The way I said it was out of proportion.

"First of all, if we're going to have a team meeting, you guys are going to be the last people to know about it. And second, we communicate with the players on a daily basis. Different places. It can be at breakfast in the morning or lunch or in the clubhouse, the bus. That's the way I operate."

As for the over-arching issue -- did the lack of action at the trade deadline cause the team to play poorly on Wednesday and Thursday while Tampa was finishing a sweep? -- Cora shook his head.

"No. I just think we didn't execute pitches," he said. "Offensively we did a good job throughout the series against the Rays. If you look back, that first game we had bases loaded, two outs, with our best hitter at the plate. (Rafael Devers) hit a fly ball to left, we don't cash in. We had Christian [Vazquez] first and third, two outs, and hanging slider, and he missed it. If we put a good swing there and we score, probably the narrative would be different, like these guys are relentless and they don't care what happened on July 31 and now we go. But we didn't do it, so the narrative is going to be like, they're down and all that. But I don't think it's that."

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Judge tosses suit against MLB for sign-stealing scheme, but rips Red Sox and Astros

Judge tosses suit against MLB for sign-stealing scheme, but rips Red Sox and Astros

The lawsuit against Major League Baseball filed by daily fantasy game players, who claimed to be defrauded by the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal, has been dismissed, but not without harsh criticism of the teams by a federal judge.

U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in his ruling blasted the Red Sox and Astros for "shamelessly" breaking both baseball's rules and "the hearts of all true baseball fans."

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In throwing out the suit brought by five daily fantasy players, Rakoff invoked the New England Patriots "Spygate" scandal from 2007, agreeing with MLB lawyers' contention that rulings in similar suits brought by fans against the NFL after the Patriots were caught illegally taping opponents' defensive signals had set a legal precedent for this suit to be dismissed. 

While the suit charged that the Red Sox and Astros had engaged in consumer fraud that created "corrupt" and "dishonest" fantasy contest for companies such as Draft Kings, Rakoff agreed with previous decisions in the NFL cases that ruled fans should know teams will look for any advantage - even "foul deeds" - to try and win.

From Rakoff's ruling: 

[D]id the initial efforts of those teams, and supposedly of Major League Baseball itself, to conceal these foul deeds from the simple sports bettors who wagered on fantasy baseball create a cognizable legal claim? On the allegations here made, the answer is no.

The Astros' sign-stealing scheme led MLB to fine the team $5 million and the one-year suspensions and subsequent firings of manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow. The Red Sox then parted ways with manager Alex Cora, who, according to MLB's findings, was the mastermind of the scheme as Houston's bench coach in 2017. 

That team won the World Series, as did the 2018 Red Sox, who are accused of using a similar system to steal signs under Cora.

MLB has yet to release a report on the Red Sox allegations. Commissioner Rob Manfred said it has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic but will be released before MLB begins its 2020 season. In comments last month in court an MLB lawyer seem to imply the Red Sox are aware of Manfred's findings and that they disagree with them.



Say hello to Arizona Red Sox? How MLB's Cactus League could save 2020 season

Say hello to Arizona Red Sox? How MLB's Cactus League could save 2020 season

Nothing says Red Sox home game like iguanas, scorpions, and cacti, but these are desperate times.

Barring millions of instant tests or a miracle cure, COVID-19 will just be a fact of our pent-up, penned-in lives for the foreseeable future.

This makes embarking on the baseball season problematic, since one infection would theoretically sideline an entire team for two weeks, and good luck staying virus-free while flying all over the country. Visiting hot spots would not only increase a player's risk of illness, it would also up the odds of one becoming a vector himself, which is bad for the brand, not to mention public health.

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But what if baseball could maintain some control over its players' whereabouts while limiting travel to a fleet of buses? Could a season happen under these tightly managed circumstances? And if so, where?

It may be a long shot, but the more one considers the alternatives, the more it sounds like the best hope we've got is for MLB to hold its entire season in Arizona.

The logistics are nightmarish regardless, but in a situation this unprecedented, the fewer variables the better. And MLB won't find a higher concentration of acceptable facilities than in the 48th state.

The Cactus League features 10 ballparks that host 15 teams in two months of spring training. Unlike the far-flung Grapefruit League, with teams scattered across Florida's east and west coasts, the Arizona sites are compact.

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Parks stretch from Mesa in the southeast to Surprise in the northwest, a drive of only 45 minutes. Everything else lies in between, a constellation of moons tightly orbiting Phoenix.

Decamping to the desert for the duration would eliminate air travel and give the league a chance to closely monitor its players. The challenge is Herculean: hosting roughly 800 players, plus at least that many coaches, staff, families, umpires, and broadcasters without anyone contracting the world's most contagious virus, against which we possess zero natural immunity.

Players would need to be quarantined in league-controlled hotels, tested constantly, and shuttled to and from the park. For such a plan to work, they'd have to sacrifice their most basic freedoms of movement, because a single failed test would grind the season to a halt while at least one team spends two weeks in isolation, potentially triggering a cascade of shutdowns, too (the mere possibility of which prompted the NBA to suspend its season, after all).

Convincing the union to sign off on such draconian restrictions won't be easy, but the alternative may very well be no baseball.

The games would be made-for-TV events without fans. If each ballpark hosted one or two games a day, a regular schedule could be played.

The challenges would be enormous. Do three teams share one clubhouse? Could ballpark and hotel staff be expected to live in isolation as well to avoid infection? How long could players live like prisoners? Will testing capacity ramp up enough to accommodate an entire league? Are the results even reliable? And how would teams keep their facilities germ-free if they're in use all day?

Politics matter, too. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey only belatedly ordered a stay-at-home order on Monday, and it has drawn criticism from the state's mayors as one of America's weakest, with exceptions for "essential" services like golf courses, nail salons, and hotels. If Arizona experiences an outbreak, then this little thought experiment dies on the vine. The same goes for extending the order past its current April 30 expiration and into the summer.

But we're here to ponder best-case scenarios, not fill your heads with more unrelenting negativity. And though the task would be monumental, if there's to be a baseball season, our best bet might be to play it in the desert.