Alex Cora was the latest domino to fall in the wake of Major League Baseball releasing a report on its investigation into allegations of sign-stealing by the Astros beginning in 2017. Cora was the Astros’ bench coach that year. The Red Sox dismissed Cora on Tuesday evening as the league’s investigation into sign-stealing by the club in 2018 continues. MLB held off on levying a punishment to Cora for that very reason, but it is believed Cora is facing a similar and likely stiffer penalty compared to those of former Astros GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch. Each received one-year suspensions without pay.
In the report, the Astros’ sign-stealing and relay system was described as “player-driven and player-executed” but “with the exception of Cora.” He called the replay review room to obtain signals after they were decoded. The signals were sent via text message to a smart watch or cell phone. Cora then arranged to have a monitor installed that displayed the feed from a camera in center field. The scheme worked to such great success that Cora decided to do a similar thing as manager of the Red Sox in 2018.
It is likely that Cora is facing at minimum a one-year suspension. It could reasonably be two or three years, given how much more involved he was and that he cheated with two organizations. Cora won’t be able to accept employment with a major league club or attend any major league events in an official capacity until his suspension is over. Is Cora done in Major League Baseball?
Probably not. While this kind of cheating -- on the scale that Cora’s teams did so -- is a relatively modern endeavor, cheating is nothing new in baseball. We’ve had pitchers doctor baseballs with all kinds of things like saliva and Vaseline. Hitters have corked their bats. We’ve had players use various kinds of performance-enhancing drugs like steroids and amphetamines. We’ve had players bet on games in which they were involved. Cora is almost certainly not going to be banned from the sport for life, so excepting those examples in history (Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose), the only other player to be blackballed from the sport is Barry Bonds, who was indicted on charges of obstruction of justice and perjury during the federal government’s investigation of BALCO, which marketed then-undetectable steroids to athletes. Cora’s offense doesn’t seem as large in comparison.
While it’s highly unlikely Cora manages in the majors anytime soon, it won’t be because he would be blackballed like Bonds. It would simply be because teams won’t view him as being worth the potential negative PR hit. Though he had long been viewed as a smart, savvy managerial candidate and it ultimately panned out into a championship, Cora isn’t the only skipper of his caliber currently working or soon to be leading a team. There are also numerous veteran managers without jobs at the moment, including Bruce Bochy, Buck Showalter, Dusty Baker, and John Gibbons. There will be a handful of unemployed, experienced managers in the next couple of years as well. Teams will not be without their candidates to fill vacancies.
Cora could work his way back into the sport’s good graces coaching or managing the Puerto Rico team in the World Baseball Classic. He could then take a minor league coaching or managerial role, and eventually climb back into a coaching role at the big league level. From there, if he has been on his best behavior and put up solid results, enough time will have passed since now where he may find himself back in consideration for a managing role. But that’s a long time from now.