Today, the Boston Red Sox fired (or “mutually parted ways”) the player-turned-manager Alex Cora. This comes after more than 24 hours since Major League Baseball’s Commissioner of Baseball, Rob Manfred, announced the findings and sanctions of the investigation into the Houston Astros’ sign stealing during their 2017 World Championship season. The result being a year-long suspension for AJ Hinch and Jeff Luhnow, the manager and general manager of the Astros, loss of 1st and 2nd round draft picks, and a $5 million fine.
The Commissioner’s report stated the Astros cheated throughout their World Series winning 2017 season by using a camera-based, sign-stealing system. The Astros deployed a replay-screen outside the entrance to the dugout where they decoded the signs of the opposing catcher and passed them on to Houston batters with a sequence communication via hitting on trash cans. Cora, the bench of the Astros as the time, was responsible for implementing the plan. Then he took his scheme to Boston for the 2018 season as manager of the Red Sox and went on to win the World Series that year. Coincidence?
Hinch and Luhnow were against the sign-stealing operations (Hinch trying to break the monitor more than once) but are still responsible because they continued to let it go on in their clubhouse. For this MLB served them a one-year ban and the Astros owner fired them.
Manfred refrained from handing down Cora’s punishment after the close of the investigation into the Astros until the completion of their other investigation into the Red Sox. So what should be Cora’s punishment? Cora was the brain behind the entire operation at the Astros and then took his method of cheating to the Red Sox, in a somewhat different form but cheating just the same. He should be banned for life.
If Pete Rose was banned for life for gambling on baseball games, then there is no doubt that Cora should be banned for life for cheating. While Pete Rose broke the rules, there wasn’t anything incremental riding on his betting on himself to win (and lets face it, Pete Rose has too much of an ego to bet against himself). Cora’s cheating almost certainly put him at an advantage to win the World Series not only once but twice. Two years in a row he used sign stealing with two different teams that resulted in World Series rings.
If AJ Hinch was banned for a year for being complicit, then let’s hope Manfred has enough courage to sufficiently punish the person behind the scheme and show that baseball has no patience to further jeopardize the integrity of the game, which has gone on for far too long.
*As a footnote: It seems that the Astros got off easy for cheating their way into a World Series win–no players were banned, no loss of playoff opportunity for the 2020 season (like they do in college basketball), only a loss of two draft picks and a puny $5 million fine? Every owner would pay $5 million to win the World Series…
A sensible punishment is:
- Suspension of Hinch + Luhnow for one year
- Cora banned for life
- Red Sox + Astros lose of playoff opportunity for 2020
- Declare no winner of the World Series for 2017
- $50 million fine for both teams
This punishes the players and the teams, but also gives redemption to the real losers of the whole thing, the Los Angeles Dodgers who lost in the World Series in both 2017 and 2018, and just as important, all the team who play by the rules.