BOSTON -- A day after the Red Sox and manager Alex Cora mutually decided it was best to end their partnership, one thing was made clear from ownership during a packed press conference at Fenway Park.
Cora is no longer managing the Red Sox because of his actions as the bench coach for the Astros and his central role that MLB uncovered in the sign-stealing scandal, about which Commissioner Rob Manfred released a full report on Monday.
The decision had nothing to do with the ongoing investigation that Cora and the Red Sox might have stolen signs in illegal fashion in 2018.
In fact, owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner, president/CEO Sam Kennedy and chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom were all consistent and passionate in asking that fans and media reserve judgment on the actions of the 2018 Red Sox until Manfred’s investigation is complete.
“Regarding the ongoing investigation here in Boston, MLB is doing a thorough investigation, as thorough as the Houston investigation, and we believe that all pertinent facts will be ascertained,” said Henry. “We would ask that everyone reserve judgment until MLB completes its investigation and determines whether rules were violated.”
“I think it’s clear we’re going to honor the Commissioner’s directive to not speak about the investigation,” added Kennedy. “But it’s also important to recognize that this collective decision yesterday was related exclusively to the incidents that took place in Houston.”
The Astros were penalized heavily, both in terms of individual discipline (general manager Jeff Lunhow and manager AJ Hinch were both suspended for a year by MLB and then dismissed from their posts by Houston) and club penalties ($5 million fine, loss of first- and second-round Draft picks in 2020-21).
The Red Sox hope that when Manfred’s investigation is complete, their actions won’t compare in scope to what occurred in Houston.
With that in mind, did Boston’s ownership give any thought to waiting to determine Cora’s fate until Manfred came out with his ruling on discipline for Cora and penalties for the Red Sox as an organization?
Maybe briefly. But it became clear to all parties -- including Cora -- that it would have been the wrong decision.
“Well, Alex -- by his own admission, and we agreed -- played a central role in what went on in Houston, and we all agreed that it was wrong and that we had a responsibility as stewards, as John had said, to have a standard here where that sort of behavior is not acceptable,” said Werner.
“While it was difficult personally and for a lot of people professionally, it was ultimately an easy decision for the Red Sox and for Alex, and it was a mutual decision,” Kennedy said. “I know corporations, companies sometimes put out these statements that we mutually agreed to part ways and it might mean something different. In this case, it did not mean something different.
“Alex came to the conclusion that he could not effectively lead the organization going forward in light of the Commissioner's findings and the ruling. And we came to that conclusion as well. And John, Tom, myself, Chaim and Alex spent the day yesterday talking through the best path forward for the Boston Red Sox. And that's how we came to this decision collectively.”
As for finding the next manager, Bloom will start that process immediately, but he offered no timetable, other than the fact that he wants to have Cora’s successor in place as soon as possible.
While many are saying that the World Series championship won by the 2017 Astros is now tainted, the Red Sox think it is unfair at this point to make that judgment about their ’18 title, led by Cora as manager. The Sox also understand the scrutiny they are under, due to the fact they were already fined for transmitting messages regarding signs through an Apple watch during the '17 season.
“I would just say it's unfortunate that we can't comment,” said Henry. “But we don't have all the facts yet ourselves. We were surprised by what we learned in the previous report. But to answer your previous question, we did take steps after the 2017 Apple watch incident. We took a number of steps to ensure that we didn't have a problem going forward.
“So again, I think it makes a lot of sense. I know it's asking a lot, but it makes a lot of sense at this point to wait until the report comes out to be able to address any of these issues.”