Cora named in MLB report, may face discipline

January 14th, 2020

BOSTON -- Red Sox manager Alex Cora was named by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred as a primary participant in the Astros’ sign-stealing scheme of 2017 and may face future discipline for his role upon the completion of an ongoing investigation into a similar scheme allegedly used by the Red Sox during Boston’s World Series championship season of 2018.

The Red Sox organization also could receive penalties when that investigation is concluded.

Manfred on Monday released a full report with unprecedented penalties for the Houston Astros’ actions in 2017, but he stated in the report that he will wait until the investigation into the Red Sox is complete before addressing Cora’s situation.

“Cora was involved in developing both the banging scheme and utilizing the replay review room to decode and transmit signs,” wrote Manfred. “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 [Department of Investigations] completes its investigation of the allegations that the Red Sox engaged in impermissible electronic sign stealing in 2018 while Cora was the manager.”

In multiple portions of his report, Manfred cited Cora being a major cog in the 2017 system in Houston, in which, after deciphering video, someone would bang a trash can below the dugout steps during home games so hitters could prepare for which pitch was coming.

Astros general manager Jeff Lunhow and manager AJ Hinch both were suspended for a full season, ending at the conclusion of the 2020 World Series. Both were then dismissed Monday afternoon by owner Jim Crane. In addition, the Astros will forfeit their first- and second-round Draft picks for 2020 and ’21 and pay a fine of $5 million.

The following was included in Manfred’s findings on the Astros:

“Early in the season, Alex Cora, the Astros’ bench coach, began to call the replay review room on the replay phone to obtain the sign information. On at least some occasions, the employees in the replay review room communicated the sign sequence information by text message, which was received on the smart watch of a staff member on the bench, or in other cases on a cell phone stored nearby. Approximately two months into the 2017 season, a group of players, including Carlos Beltrán, discussed that the team could improve on decoding opposing teams’ signs and communicating the signs to the batter.

“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.”

Manfred, citing witnesses, added that the system was all player-driven, with the exception of Cora, who at the time was Hinch’s bench coach.

The Red Sox were penalized in ’17 for transmitting sign information from their replay review room to individuals in the dugout wearing smart watches. The club was fined, and Manfred then issued a memo to all MLB clubs stating that such future violations would be taken “extremely seriously by my office” and that the GM and field manager would be held accountable in the future.

John Farrell was the manager of the Red Sox in 2017, and the club at that time assured MLB that it would never commit another such violation.

However, according to a recent report by The Athletic, which used former Red Sox players as anonymous sources, the team significantly violated protocol again just one season later with Cora as manager.

Dave Dombrowski was president of baseball operations of the Red Sox in 2018 but was dismissed by the club late in the 2019 season. Though Dombrowski is currently unemployed, it’s possible he could face discipline, as well. Dombrowski told The Boston Globe last week he had no knowledge of any improper use of the team’s video room in 2018.