Red Sox

Report: Alex Cora could be suspended at least one season for sign-stealing

Report: Alex Cora could be suspended at least one season for sign-stealing

Major League Baseball just dropped the hammer on the Houston Astros, and Alex Cora is expected to be next.

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch both have been suspended one year for their role in Houston's illegal sign-stealing operation in 2017, The Athletic's Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal reported Monday.

MLB's shockingly harsh punishment also requires the Astros to forfeit their first- and second-round picks in both 2020 and 2021 and pay a $5 million fine, the maximum allowed under MLB's constitution, per The Athletic.

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Cora was Houston's bench coach during the Astros' championship 2017 campaign before taking the Boston Red Sox' manager job in 2018. The 2018 Red Sox also are under MLB investigation for their own sign-stealing operation, and his discipline won't be determined until after that investigation is complete, The Athletic reported.

According to ESPN's Jeff Passan, though, Cora could face even more severe repercussions.

That makes sense, considering Cora was Hinch's right-hand man in Houston who apparently played a central role in its sign-stealing operation -- and oversaw a similar operation with Boston in 2018.

The Red Sox said they'll cooperate with MLB's investigation, and it's unclear when the league will hand out its punishment to Boston.

UPDATE (2:45 p.m. ET): MLB is beginning its investigation into the Red Sox on Monday, according to USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale, and Cora is expected to be suspended at least one year.

J.D. Martinez states without equivocation that Red Sox will be exonerated by MLB investigation

J.D. Martinez states without equivocation that Red Sox will be exonerated by MLB investigation

SPRINGFIELD -- For five hours on Saturday morning at Winter Weekend, Red Sox players and coaches delivered basically the same message in regards to the 2018 cheating scandal: We're not at liberty to say anything until the league finishes its investigation.

And then J.D. Martinez stepped in front of the cameras.

The slugging DH, who earlier this offseason chose to remain in Boston rather than exercise an opt-out in his contract, minced no words when asked if the Red Sox did anything wrong during their championship 2018 season.

"You know, it sucks, to be honest with you," he said of the investigation. "It does suck. But you know what? I know I'm excited for the investigation to be over with just so that they can see that there was nothing going on here."

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So he believes the team is innocent of the charges that it used the replay room to steal opposing signs in real time?

"I believe that, yes," Martinez said.

And what gives Martinez this confidence, despite a report to the contrary in The Athletic claiming that the Red Sox stole signs?

"Because I was in there," he said. "I saw what was. . . . Straight up, everyone seems to forget that in 2017 and '16 this team was a really good team. This team won 93 games those two years and then we just got better."

Martinez spoke without hesitation, and also saluted departed manager Alex Cora, while offering some insight into why Cora decided to leave the team.

"Kind of heartbroken about it," he said. "I talked to him before and I understood his side of it. He didn't want to be a distraction going into the season. I know it was wearing on him and his family, so I obviously feel for him and I wish him the best. But I know he played a big, big role for our team and he was one of my favorites, if not my favorite manager that I've had. It's going to be tough."

Mike Lowell says he'd love to take job as Red Sox manager temporarily if it brought Alex Cora back

Mike Lowell says he'd love to take job as Red Sox manager temporarily if it brought Alex Cora back

Mike Lowell would check a lot of the boxes the Red Sox would be looking for in their managerial search. The popular former Red Sox third baseman is a Cuban-American who speaks Spanish and English and is media-savvy as an analyst for the MLB Network. 

Still, there's one condition he has that will probably take Lowell out of the running. 

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The 2007 World Series MVP and 2018 inductee into the team's Hall of Fame has no managerial experience, but told WEEI's Rob Bradford in a text message, "I would love to if I knew it was just for a year and Cora was guaranteed to come back."

Alex Cora, a Red Sox teammate of Lowell's for three seasons (2006-08), was let go by on Tuesday after he was named as the central figure in Major League Baseball's investigation of sign-stealing by the Houston Astros when Cora was their bench coach in 2017. Cora is also alleged to have brought a similar system to Boston when he became manager before the 2018 season. MLB is continuing to investigate the allegations against the Red Sox and it will likely result in a suspension of one season or longer for Cora.

Former Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were each suspended for a season by MLB and subsequently fired by Houston.

With Cora facing perhaps a longer punishment, or perhaps even a lifetime ban from baseball -- and from Red Sox ownership's telling silence when asked if Cora would ever manage in the majors again -- Lowell's plan of temporarily filling in until Cora's return isn't likely to fly.