Red Sox

Is it hyperbole to suggest that Alex Cora could face banishment from baseball?

Is it hyperbole to suggest that Alex Cora could face banishment from baseball?

UPDATE (Jan. 14, 7:26 p.m.) — The Red Sox and Alex Cora have "mutually agreed to part ways."

Here's a phrase we couldn't have imagined applying to Alex Cora even two days ago: lifetime ban.

On the list of punishments potentially facing the Red Sox manager, the most draconian suddenly feels very much in play.

With the rubble still smoldering in Houston after the cheating fiasco that cost Astros GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch their jobs — but absolved owner Jim Crane, because apparently organizational oversight stops just shy of his gilded door — it is clear that MLB considers Cora the central figure in not one but two scandals.

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Read the nine-page report MLB released on Monday, and not only is Cora's name all over it — he's mentioned 11 times — but his transgressions dwarf those of Hinch, who nonetheless earned a one-year suspension that quickly morphed into a firing.

While Hinch (somewhat fancifully, if you ask me) claims that he expressed his displeasure with Houston's chicanery by smashing a TV just outside the dugout a couple of times but never actually told anyone to stop, the report describes Cora's actions unambiguously.

Cora "called the replay room" to obtain signs. Cora "arranged for the video" monitor to be installed outside the Houston dugout. Cora was "involved in" the trash can banging scheme.

In a report that has led to unprecedented punishments, embarrassed the sport, and forever tainted Houston's 2017 World Series title, no one person is described as playing a more central role in the various schemes than Cora.

On the Houston half of this equation alone, Cora was probably looking at a two-year suspension. The fact that MLB is conducting a concurrent investigation into Boston's actions during the 2018 championship season, when the Red Sox are accused of a similar scheme to steal signs via the replay room (minus the trash can), and it's reasonable to infer the league is about squash Cora like a bug.

If Cora had some organizational cover in 2017 as bench coach — he reported to direct superiors, both of whom are unemployed as of Monday — no such firewall exists for his role in 2018's alleged sign stealing.

As manager, he can't claim ignorance of the actions of underlings, especially if the Boston scheme ends up being exactly the same as the one perpetrated by the Astros, as has been reported by The Athletic; it shouldn't be hard for MLB to make the case that Cora simply imported his own dirty tactics from Houston.

Combine that with Boston's perch as a potential repeat offender following the 2017 Apple Watch fiasco, and that's how a lifetime ban ends up on the table.

Commissioner Rob Manfred has clearly designed his punishments for maximum deterrence. If he believes Cora's crimes merit more than two years, he may as well go all the way and slap "lifetime" on his ban, perhaps allowing him the chance to appeal in 2022, which would effectively sideline Cora for two years, but rhetorically leave no doubt that Manfred is the law.

And so here we are, contemplating the unthinkable. The Red Sox hired Cora two years ago to connect with young players, incorporate analytics into the team's day-to-day decision-making, and maybe steal a little bit of that cutting-edge Houston mojo.

They stole it all right, and what they got instead leaves them teetering on the edge of disgrace, with their manager poised to take the biggest fall of all.

Is now the right time to trade Mookie Betts? Red Sox have all the evidence they need

Is now the right time to trade Mookie Betts? Red Sox have all the evidence they need

If Mookie Betts and the Red Sox are really $100 million apart, then the Red Sox should stop pretending he has a future in Boston and trade him right now.

WEEI's Lou Merloni reported on Wednesday that last year the Red Sox made Betts an offer in the 10-year, $300 million range, and he countered with 12 years and $420 million. That gulf is so sizable that meeting in the middle at $360 million might be considered unacceptable by both sides.

When the Red Sox infamously lowballed ace Jon Lester before the 2014 season, after all, their four-year, $70 million offer was probably only one year and $30 million less than Lester would've considered a legitimate starting point. And he still shut down negotiations before being traded and then joined the Cubs in free agency.

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At this point, the Red Sox have as much information as they need to discern Betts' intentions.

He wants to be paid closer to Mike Trout's $426.5 million than Manny Machado's $300 million, and he plans to do so in free agency. Keeping him in the hope that he suddenly agrees to an extension when he has never been closer to hitting the open market feels like a denial of reality.

That's why the chatter of Betts heading west to either San Diego or Los Angeles has suddenly intensified. Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom should play the division rivals against each other to secure the best deal and move on.

Personally, I'd be focused on unloading both Betts and David Price to the Dodgers, paying enough of their combined $59 million in 2020 to land a package built around a promising young player like outfielder Alex Verdugo, and getting a jump on life in a post-Mookie world.

The alternative is keeping him until the trade deadline, letting this story hang over both player and organization through July, and then being unable to pull the trigger because the team clings to the periphery of the postseason race, at which point the Red Sox are left with basically nothing.

Trading Betts now doesn't even preclude the possibility of him signing long-term, because if the Red Sox decide they simply can't live without their former MVP, his desire to reach the market could actually cut back in their favor. Nothing would stop them from making a massive offer next winter and trying to bring him back, à la the Yankees after trading closer Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs for three months in 2016.

That said, if the Red Sox trade Betts, I suspect it would be forever, and there's a case to be made for that, too. Ten- or 12-year deals are generally bad business, no matter how talented the player, because there are too many ways they can sour.

The Angels have been riding out Albert Pujols' decline almost from the day he signed a 10-year, $240 million contract in 2012 at age 32, and even if he had signed at 28 before winning back-to-back MVP awards, it would still be money poorly spent. The same goes for Robinson Cano (10 years, $228 million), Miguel Cabrera (effectively 10 years, $292 million), and unfortunately, Dustin Pedroia, who's not going to see the finish of his eight-year, $110 million extension in 2021, thanks to a degenerative knee injury.

Betts is younger than all of them (27), which works in his favor, but we have not made nearly a big enough issue of his size when calculating the risk of a lengthy deal. He stands only 5-foot-9, and that's not a stature that yields longevity.

Since 1980, only three players that height have delivered a .900 OPS in at least 100 games after age 30 — Matt Stairs (twice), Lonnie Smith, and Kirby Puckett. For $35 million a year, .900 feels like a reasonable floor, but for players Betts' size it's actually a pretty hard ceiling, with his most promising comps being Puckett — who saw an eye injury end his career at age 35 — and former Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada, who made five All-Star teams between ages 30 and 35.

Otherwise, we're talking about players such as Chuck Knoblauch, Marcus Giles, Brian Roberts, Pedroia, and Jimmy Rollins — undersized stars who peaked in their 20s before experiencing precipitous declines in their 30s. Cleveland's Jose Ramirez could join that group, which might even include Hall of Famer Tim Raines, whose case became borderline based on his 30s.

In any event, there's now more than enough evidence for the Red Sox to experience clarity on their most pressing offseason issue: it's time to trade Mookie Betts.

MLB Rumors: Red Sox interested in Mark Kotsay for managerial opening

MLB Rumors: Red Sox interested in Mark Kotsay for managerial opening

The Boston Red Sox's search for their new manager has been rather slow, but a new candidate may be emerging.

The Red Sox reportedly have an interest in Oakland Athletics quality control coach Mark Kotsay, according to's Chris Cotillo.

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Although Kotsay, 44, a former outfielder who played for the Red Sox in 2008 and '09 in a major league playing career spanning more than 16 years, has no MLB managerial experience, he has worked in the San Diego Padres' front office as well as serving on the Padres and Athletics coaching staffs since retiring in 2013.

After firing Alex Cora earlier this month, the Red Sox have been linked to multiple managerial candidates, including Ron Roenicke, Jason Varitek, Dino Ebel and Joe McEwing. Although Boston is still in the thick of the managerial hunt with spring training approaching in two weeks,'s Mark Feinsand reported that the Red Sox are unlikely to make a hire before next week.