Examining the mess Red Sox, Alex Cora find themselves in

By WEEI 93.7
“Somebody might write this, I don’t care. If you guys thought last year was special, wait till this year.” -- Alex Cora, Jan. 18, 2019 at the Boston Baseball Writers' Dinner.

Um ...

Almost exactly one year later (the Writers' Dinner is Thursday) the depths Cora and the Red Sox find themselves are unfathomable. But here they are. With the manager teetering the edge of extended unemployment and an organization already fighting to find a reason for hope left with the kind of gut-punch that could cut to the core for years to come.

As professionally doomed as Cora seems to be, the events of Monday afternoon are also extremely problematic for the team that in many ways built itself around its manager.

So, where do we start?

The news of the day was rooted in Commissioner Rob Manfred's ruling on the Houston Astros, which led to the firing of both general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch. From the Red Sox' perspective the list of problems starts with the investigation that isn't yet complete -- the claim (highlighted by The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich) made regarding relaying sign sequences from the video room to the dugout to the baserunners in 2018.

After the Red Sox were slapped on the wrist for their participation in passing along signals using an Apple Watch in 2017, Manfred made it clear that this organization had no room for error going forward. Any subsequent hint at utilizing electronic assistance was going to result in a major smack-down. Cora wasn't here for that. That doesn't matter. Anybody and everybody in the Red Sox' organization should have been branded with the reality that they found themselves in due to Apple Watch-Gate.

To think that anyone would believe that the bending of these sort of rules was worth it is truly baffling. If you are in any other organization that isn't carrying Manfred's warning then maybe you can lean on the "everybody else is doing it" mantra. But not Cora. Not the Red Sox.

And this is only the first reason why the Red Sox are in trouble.

Assuming the claims made by multiple anonymous sources in The Athletic are correct and MLB verifies the wrongdoing you can say goodbye to the No. 17 overall pick in the draft, probably the next round's selection and some other painful penalties to boot. It most likely will be the exact same kind of pain John Henry and Co. were trying to avoid by going over the CBT.

Then you have the Cora problem.

It's hard to imagine the 2018 world champion skipper managing in a Red Sox uniform again. First, there was the tidal wave of mentions regarding Cora in Manfred's report, surfacing his name 11 times. Luhnow and Hinch were suspended for a year and then subsequently fired for being what is being portrayed as on the outskirts of the drama. Cora has been identified as being in the belly of the beast, so much so that if there were only the 2017 allegations he would probably be out of baseball for the next one or two years. Now, thanks to the alleged 2018 transgressions, it looks like there will be no room for any sort of return.

Moving on from Cora isn't anywhere close to as turn-key as Houston will experience with the promotion of bench coach Joe Espada. The Red Sox weren't building their program around Ron Roenicke. They were building it around Alex Cora.

Mookie Betts. J.D. Martinez. Rafael Devers. Eduardo Rodriguez. They are just some of the players whose existence in Boston is partially defined by Cora's presence as their manager. The Red Sox' recruitment of players in all corners of the roster was made easier with word spreading about playing in the big market under the umbrella of the former infielder. 

When we woke up Monday the Red Sox' uncertainty was all about a few players who might not be around due to luxury tax concerns. But for the most part you were going to have a core group that felt confident in the direction they still remembered led them to the title in 2018. That direction is out the window. Players in the clubhouse are heading toward 2020 with more doubts than any trade can surface. In many ways, Cora was their identity. Now they are on the verge of landing in Fort Myers without that identity.

Some might say that all of this punishment doesn't fit the crime. That firings and/or bans were too much in this case. Here, however, the horse was so far out of the barn when it came to this sort of chicanery this was the only way MLB could reel it back in. And part of that blame should rest with Major League Baseball. In hindsight, MLB should have hammered the Red Sox two-plus years ago.

After the revelation was made during the 2018 postseason that the Astros may have been doing some shady stuff MLB implemented a bunch of changes for 2019. One of them was to put every monitor in and around the clubhouse on a 10-second delay except for the replay system, which was limited to just one person with the screen protected so viewers couldn't get a glimpse from anywhere except directly in front of the image.

In other words, MLB knew this stuff was going on but waited until Mike Fiers and The Athletic made it public before springing into action.

While that might be annoying, it really doesn't matter.

The cheating bubble was going to burst at some point and it just so happened the Astros and Red Sox were (deservedly) the two teams to get the pin-prick. This, however, is far from a pin-prick. This a full-on dagger. The likes of which will be leaving a mark for longer than anyone could have anticipated.