Red Sox

Red Sox want it both ways on Cora dismissal, and other thoughts from a surreal day at Fenway

Red Sox want it both ways on Cora dismissal, and other thoughts from a surreal day at Fenway

For more than an hour on Wednesday afternoon, the Red Sox asked us to embrace two essentially incompatible ideas.

On the one hand, they repeatedly requested that we withhold judgment over any cheating they may have committed in 2018 until Major League Baseball completes its investigation. On the other hand, we were only sitting there because they had already rendered a seemingly ironclad verdict on the matter by dismissing manager Alex Cora.

Ownership claims that Cora had to go solely because of his actions in Houston, which were detailed in a bombshell nine-page report on Monday that left little doubt about his central role in the scheme to steal signs.

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Still, considering that he is being accused of conducting the exact same behavior in Boston, minus the trash can, it's hard to see how the team can play the innocent-until-proven-guilty card when it is suddenly conducting a managerial search less than a month before the start of spring training.

"We have not rendered judgment on 2018," said team president Sam Kennedy. "We've rendered judgment with respect to 2017."

That sounds like having it both ways, to me, but in any event, here are my other takeaways from one of the stranger days I've seen at Fenway Park in the past 25 years.

* MLB has boxed itself in on this issue. What started as an attempt to lay down the law in order to deter future sign-stealing is in danger of starting a chain-reaction conflagration that torches multiple franchises.

The Red Sox and Astros are in the market for new managers. As I type, the Mets are wavering over the future of the newly hired Carlos Beltran. The last thing commissioner Rob Manfred wants is eight more press conferences like Wednesday's, with teams detailing why they fired their decision-maker(s) under the cloud of scandal.

The idea is to make an example of the Red Sox and Astros so no one ever crosses this line again. But if more media-driven revelations keep appearing, Manfred and Co. will have no choice but to act, except this time they'll be rendering judgments in the middle of the season, when a forced managerial change could be particularly destructive to a contending team.

Baseball's attempts to clean up this mess could create an even bigger problem.

* So where do the Red Sox go from there? The front office's search will naturally start internally, since the shortest path to continuity is hiring from within. The problem is, the team really can't name a successor from Cora's staff until the league produces its report on 2018, and that could be two months from now. 

The nightmare scenario would be receiving assurances from a current coach that his hands were clean, elevating him to manager, and then seeing his name all over a damning report. The Red Sox can't take that chance, unless they want to conduct another managerial search after Opening Day.

If they want to start with an experienced, unemployed manager, they've twice interviewed former Tigers and Angels skipper Brad Ausmus, who has reached the playoffs once in five seasons. Just-retired Giants manager Bruce Bochy would be another possibility, except he reiterated in a recent interview that he plans on taking 2020 off before considering a return to the dugout.

One man who deserves a look from someone, somewhere, is 70-year-old Dusty Baker, who has won at least 90 games in five of his past six seasons helming the Nationals and Reds.

* What impact might this have on the rest of the offseason? The Red Sox have been surprisingly quiet despite assumptions that they'd have dumped payroll by now. They could take the Cora news in two directions, either viewing it as an opportunity to just blow everything up and start over, or as a mandate (there's that word again!) to build the best possible team in 2020 to avoid further alienating the fan base.

Considering their obsession with PR, it's hard to imagine they choose option A at this point, but it's too late for them to make any big moves that significantly improve the roster, which means their most likely course of action is to hope that everyone who underperformed last year (i.e., everyone in the rotation not named Eduardo Rodriguez) finds a return to form.

Good luck with that.

* One final tidbit: Kennedy would not reveal, as part of the "mutual decision" to part, whether the team will pay Cora either his salary or a settlement. It wouldn't be a shock if the Red Sox take care of Cora in some way, since ownership clearly remains fond of him, and he's probably going to be out of a job for the next two years. A settlement would also help ensure that he goes quietly without fighting his dismissal.

 

Here's when to expect MLB's ruling in Red Sox sign-stealing investigation

Here's when to expect MLB's ruling in Red Sox sign-stealing investigation

It looks like the Boston Red Sox will have to wait even longer to hear the results of MLB's ongoing investigation into the 2018 team's alleged sign-stealing.

Commissioner Rob Manfred stated back on Feb. 16 he expected the investigation to conclude by the end of this week. On Tuesday, though, Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported an announcement likely won't be made until early March.


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Of course, that means a ruling will come only a couple of days later than anticipated, but there's no doubt Sox fans are growing frustrated with the constant delays.

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said Tuesday the league has concluded its interviews for the investigation.

“As of right now, we understand that the interviews that they were going to have and did have as well as the information they were gathering from beyond the player interviews has all happened,” Clark said, per The Boston Globe. “Now we’re just waiting for the decision itself.”

Multiple Red Sox players claim the 2018 team did nothing wrong and that there shouldn't be a punishment coming their way. If MLB does hand down punishments, the expectation is that they won't be severe.

Red Sox prospect quarantined amid coronavirus concerns

Red Sox prospect quarantined amid coronavirus concerns

The Boston Red Sox are playing it safe with one of their prospects during spring training. Not because of anything injury-related, but because of the coronavirus.

Taiwanese right-hander Chih-Jung Liu is being quarantined in a hotel room, as a team spokesman said the organization is using “an overabundance of caution" to guard against the virus, per The Boston Globe.

Liu, who arrived to the United States for his first spring training after being signed in October, provided an update on his status on his Facebook page. According to The Globe, the 20-year-old says he is "being delivered three meals a day, doing some weight training, and going for an occasional run." He's also spending his time online “watching information about the team” and reading.

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Taiwan currently has 31 confirmed cases of coronavirus to the United States' 57, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Liu flew from Taiwan to San Francisco prior to joining the Red Sox in Fort Myers, Fla. for spring training.

Liu expects to come out of quarantine and finally join his teammates on Saturday.