BOSTON (CBS) — Let me start by telling you that I consider Alex Cora a friend. If he called me today and said his family needed some help, I wouldn’t hesitate to help him.
But, Cora took something that’s been prevalent in the game of baseball forever – and took it way too far. Plain and simple.
Front offices, managers, coaches and players are always looking for an edge. Anything, even the tiniest of details, ANYTHING to help them win. That’s pro baseball. From a starter tipping his pitches to a hitter erasing the chalk line at the back of the batter’s box to get back further. Happens all the time. There’s dishonesty, too. A player telling the ump he got hit by pitch, or an infielder casually getting in the way of a base runner. You see it all the time.
But what happened with the Astros and Red Sox is simple. They took it too far.
The whistle blew in August of 2017 when the Red Sox and Yankees got fined for using electronic equipment to steal signs. Video, watches, phones. Something I’m sure most, if not all, teams have done. Doesn’t matter. The Sox and Yankees got caught.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred even acknowledged in a press release in September of 2017 that sign stealing was not that big of a deal. But that doesn’t mean it’s right:
“At the outset, it is important to understand that the attempt to decode signs being used by an opposing catcher is not a violation of any Major League Baseball Rule or Regulation,” Manfred’s statement read. “Major League Baseball Regulations do, however, prohibit the use of electronic equipment during games and state that no such equipment ‘may be used for the purpose of stealing signs or conveying information designed to give a Club an advantage.’”
OK, so the Red Sox and Yankees were caught taking things too far. They, and all of baseball, were warned at that point that any future use of electronics would result in harsh penalties. Fair enough.
But Cora and the Astros ignored the warning from Manfred and took sign stealing to a whole new level. And as we await the Red Sox 2018 investigation to be finalized, it appears Cora and the Sox also took things way too far.
Also, back in 2017, Commissioner Manfred warned that if teams got caught using electronics then the guilty team’s GM and manager would be held responsible.
Jeff Luhnow and A.J. Hinch felt the brunt of Monday’s punishment. Each received one year suspensions and both got fired.
Expect Alex Cora, who was mentioned 11 times in the report, to get at least a one-year suspension and to be fired by the Red Sox.
Like it or not, they are feeling the brunt of the commissioner’s wrath. Baseball has been losing fans for many reasons. This is an opportunity for Manfred to say enough is enough. The integrity and future of the game is at stake.
Yes I know, within the game this will seen as an over-the-top punishment for something that has gone on forever. However, baseball lost a lot of fans and respect when those in the game watched – and completely ignored a generation of steroid use. It stained the game. Home run numbers don’t mean much any more. The Hall of Fame debate is now about two things: Was the player one of the all-time greats when he played, and should they get in even if we know or strongly believe that player used steroids?
The commissioner is stopping this issue now. Are teams dumb enough to use this stuff now? There’s way too much risk outweighing the reward – and good.
The Red Sox will now pay because they will lose highly coveted draft picks and their manager. Cora, in my opinion, doesn’t deserve to be banned from the game for life. He’s adored by his players, who all love him and have played their behinds off for him.
But Cora took a century old practice and modernized it. Took it to a new level. He’s the guy at the epicenter and he’s going to pay for it.
To me, it’s pretty simple. It’s like a parent dealing with kids. When you get caught the first time for doing something you shouldn’t, you get a stern warning and a small punishment. When you get caught again, and you took it to a whole new level, you’re screwed. You’ve ticked off your parents and disappointed them. They’re angry.
Rob Manfred is that parent. I’m sure he admired and respected A.J. Hinch and Alex Cora. But he had to end it. And he did.
I’m upset today. I’ve loved Alex Cora as a player, a manager, and a person. I still will, but I understand why he’s being punished. I don’t like it personally and think the punishment is harsh. I also think he’s being hung out to dry by the Astros. If anyone thinks this was only Alex Cora, they’re dead wrong. I guarantee you players, coaches, etc. knew exactly what was going on and were all in. Not every player, as I’m sure there were some that were upset, but Cora didn’t — and couldn’t — do this alone. I’ll be interested in what players have to say about this matter when the dust settles.
But the bottom line in all of this? The game itself is and will always be the most important thing as everyone and everything else will come and go. The game needed to be repaired going forward. Those repairs have begun.