Red Sox

Red Sox manager Alex Cora's role in Astros' scandal detailed in MLB report

Red Sox manager Alex Cora's role in Astros' scandal detailed in MLB report

The Houston Astros received an unprecedented punishment from Major League Baseball on Monday for a system created to steal signs from opposing teams, and the Boston Red Sox could be the next team to face harsh penalties.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora was the Astros' bench coach for the 2017 season and was a key player in the team's sign-stealing scandal. The league had been investigating the Astros for several months, and the penalties stemming from that are quite severe. Houston manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow both were suspended for a year. The Astros also lost first- and second-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021, in addition to a $5 million fine.

The harshest punishment could be yet to come, though. The league also is investigating the 2018 Red Sox for their own sign-stealing methods. Cora managed that Red Sox squad to a World Series title after winning a franchise-record 108 regular season games.

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The MLB, in its report on the Astros, concluded Hinch neither created nor participated in the Astros' sign-stealing methods, and yet he still got suspended for an entire season. Cora, on the other hand, played a much larger role in the whole process. The league's conclusion of Cora's role does not bode well for his chances of managing for Boston in 2020 (or even beyond).

From the league's report:

Cora arranged for a video room technician to install a monitor displaying the center field camera feed immediately outside of the Astros’ dugout. (The center field camera was primarily used for player development purposes and was allowed under MLB rules at the time when used for that purpose.) Witnesses have provided largely consistent accounts of how the monitor was utilized. One or more players watched the live feed of the center field camera on the monitor, and after decoding the sign, a player would bang a nearby trash can with a bat to communicate the upcoming pitch type to the batter. (Witnesses explained that they initially experimented with communicating sign information by clapping, whistling, or yelling, but that they eventually determined that banging a trash can was the preferred method of communication.) Players occasionally also used a massage gun to bang the trash can. Generally, one or two bangs corresponded to certain off-speed pitches, while no bang corresponded to a fastball.

Here's the summary on Cora from the league's investigation of the Astros.

Alex Cora (Bench Coach). 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.

Cora's name is mentioned 11 times in the nine-page report released by the league Monday.

The best way to deter a team and/or coach from participating in rule-breaking activity is to come down with a huge punishment. The league certainly did that with the Astros, and this should make Cora and the Red Sox very nervous. It's probably time for the Red Sox to come up with a list of potential manager replacements.

MLB's Top 100 players for 2020 season: Numbers 75-51

MLB's Top 100 players for 2020 season: Numbers 75-51

With MLB players and owners struggling to come to terms on a return-to-play strategy for 2020, we're focusing on the actual players who will take the field when games eventually get back underway.

Over the next several weeks, NBC Sports Boston is counting down the Top 100 players for 2020. While our list won't include several aces who will definitely not play this season — Noah Syndergaard of the Mets, Luis Severino of the Yankees, and Chris Sale of the Red Sox — our countdown includes many other All-Stars.

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Red Sox closer Brandon Workman kicked off our list at No. 100, and there's another Boston hurler in the next group of 25 players. 

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez finally delivered on his considerable promise in 2019, going 19-6 with a 3.81 ERA and finishing sixth in the AL Cy Young race.

He was the rock of a rotation missing Nathan Eovaldi for most of the season, David Price for large chunks, and Chris Sale for what amounted to the final two months. Just 27 years old, E-Rod remains firmly in his prime, and with another strong season should climb even higher next year.

Click here for Part 2 of our Top 100, featuring players 75-51.

 

In battle of MLB owners vs. players, best choice feels like 'none of the above'

In battle of MLB owners vs. players, best choice feels like 'none of the above'

I hate them all.

MLB's owners, with their bad-faith labor proposals designed to make the players look greedy so they'll have someone to blame if the season can't be salvaged. The players, who are too stupid and undisciplined to decline the bait.

The billionaire owners, for crying poor and refusing to pay their minor leaguers. The millionaire players, for treating every offer like an insult to be doused in urine.

The owners, for using a pandemic to ram through a series of long-sought changes to the draft, the minor leagues, and maybe even a salary cap. The players, for failing to recognize the need to stop swinging the gold-plated Boras Corp. hammer of public messaging they typically wield like Thor.

I hate it, hate it, hate it. All of it.

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As we seek a return to normalcy, at least there's baseball to ground us in all of its infinite stupidity. While the NBA quietly negotiates a 16-team tournament with surprisingly little rancor, and the NHL announces that it will conduct a 24-team playoffs as soon as it is safe to do so, baseball and its players take turns poleaxing the sport in the face.

The owners started with a 50-50 revenue sharing model they were so certain was a nonstarter, they never even officially offered it to the players. They did leak it far and wide, however, which led to inevitable pushback from union boss Tony Clark, who sniffed that it was a blatant attempt to install a salary cap, which the players will never accept, certainly not with CBA negotiations looming next year.

Cue the predictable bemoaning of baseball's out-of-touch millionaire class, which is exactly what the owners wanted. They're skillfully waging asymmetrical warfare, since they need to shut only 30 mouths to close ranks. There are 900 players, though, and it only takes one of them swallowing his leg above the knee to sway public opinion.

Enter Rays lefty Blake Snell, a Twitch streamer depressingly short on brain matter who announced to his followers that, "I gotta get my money," in a tone-deaf rant last week that immediately overshadowed more nuanced discussions of health and safety from the likes of Andrew Miller, Chris Iannetta, and even Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo. Snell apologized, but damage done.

It should come as little surprise that he then fired his agent and hired Boras.

Ahhh, Boras. In normal times, he's unfairly maligned for securing monster deals. No one forced the Padres to fork over $300 million to Manny Machado, for instance. Boras is the best in the business and someone we'd all want on our side in a negotiation.

In normal times, anyway. But now?

If there's anyone who needs to stand down in the midst of a messaging battle, it's the man many fans consider the sport's avatar of avarice. "You don't privatize the gains and socialize the losses," might be an accurate appraisal of MLB's initial proposal, but it's not a sentiment anyone wants to hear from the man who just negotiated over $1 billion worth of contracts this winter.

Spending all this time focusing on Boras and the MLBPA, however, plays right into the hands of the owners. Their latest proposal, which calls for a sliding scale of pay cuts that would leave the lowest earners making most of their prorated salaries and the highest earners staring at cuts of $30 million (sorry, Mike Trout), feels designed to provoke another round of public whining.

That means they're still more concerned with PR than actually saving their game, and once you view their actions solely through the lens of assigning blame, it becomes clear how cynical their attempts at resuming play really are. It wouldn't surprise me if there's a faction willing to blow up the season to gain massive leverage when the CBA expires in 2021. These guys didn't become billionaires by playing nice.

We're already hearing about furloughs and pay cuts in the front offices of even storied franchises like the Cubs, and the A's just eliminated a $400/month stipend to their minor leaguers that ESPN's Jeff Passan estimated would've cost them only $1 million to maintain through August. The move feels as distasteful as whatever bubbles up through the drains in the Coliseum.

Meanwhile, the clock continues to tick. If the sides really want baseball to return by July 4, they'll need to reach an agreement sometime in the next 10 days in order to leave time to conduct a three-week spring training.

It's entirely possible the two sides are withholding their best offers until the 11th hour, and all of this posturing is just so much saber rattling before everyone finally acts in the game's best interests.

If that's the case, may I politely suggest they all go to hell? We've got our own problems at the moment, and picking a side in this loser battle ain't one of them.