Alex Cora is a dead man walking

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Today’s suspensions and subsequent firings of Astros manager A.J. Hinch and Jeff Luhnow — along with the loss of high draft picks and a $5 million fine — constitute major sanctions arising out of the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal.

But there’s another shoe to drop. And it’s almost certainly going to drop on Red Sox’ manager Alex Cora.

Rob Manfred’s full report about the sign-stealing in Houston calls out many people, but Cora is slammed more than anyone. The report says that the sign-stealing was primarily player-driven, but it states that Cora, then the bench coach of the Astros, played a key role in setting it up.

Relevant parts of the report:

  • Alex Cora (Bench Coach). Cora was involved in developing both the banging scheme and utilizing the replay review room to decode and transmit signs. Cora participated in both schemes, and through his active participation, implicitly condoned the players’ conduct.”
  • “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 . . . Cora arranged for a video room technician to install a monitor displaying the center field camera feed immediately outside of the Astros’ dugout . . . witnesses consistently describe this new scheme as player-driven, and with the exception of Cora, non-player staff, including individuals in the video replay review room, had no involvement in the [trash can] banging scheme . . .”
  • “The attempt by the Astros’ replay review room staff to decode signs using the center field camera was originated and executed by lower-level baseball operations employees working in conjunction with Astros players and Cora . . .”
  • “Hinch neither devised the banging scheme nor participated in it. Hinch told my investigators that he did not support his players decoding signs using the monitor installed near the dugout and banging the trash can, and he believed that the conduct was both wrong and distracting. Hinch attempted to signal his disapproval of the scheme by physically damaging the monitor on two occasions, necessitating its replacement. However, Hinch admits he did not stop it and he did not notify players or Cora that he disapproved of it.”

Hinch was opposed to the scheme and had nothing to do with its development. He was suspended for a year, and fired, however, because he didn’t do anything to stop it.

In the report Cora, in contrast, reads like he was the mastermind. The key man. That he did so as a coach of the Astros, then moved on to a second team and continued a sign-stealing scheme, all after that team had already been fined and warned against it the previous season with the Apple Watch business, is some dire freakin’ stuff.

Manfred says in his report that Cora’s discipline has not yet been decided and that it will come when he is done investigating the Red Sox’ sign-stealing. No matter when it comes, I cannot imagine how Cora will not receive substantially more discipline than Hinch. And assuming that means at least a multi-year suspension, I do not see how he is not fired by the Boston Red Sox.

Max Scherzer: ‘There’s no reason to engage with MLB in any further compensation reductions’

Max Scherzer
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MLBPA player representative Max Scherzer sent out a short statement late Wednesday night regarding the ongoing negotiations between the owners and the union. On Tuesday, ownership proposed a “sliding scale” salary structure on top of the prorated pay cuts the players already agreed to back in March. The union rejected the proposal, with many worrying that it would drive a wedge in the union’s constituency.

Scherzer is one of eight players on the MLBPA executive subcommittee along with Andrew Miller, Daniel Murphy, Elvis Andrus, Cory Gearrin, Chris Iannetta, James Paxton, and Collin McHugh.

Scherzer’s statement:

After discussing the latest developments with the rest of the players there’s no reason to engage with MLB in any further compensation reductions. We have previously negotiated a pay cut in the version of prorated salaries, and there’s no justification to accept a 2nd pay cut based upon the current information the union has received. I’m glad to hear other players voicing the same viewpoint and believe MLB’s economic strategy would completely change if all documentation were to become public information.

Indeed, aside from the Braves, every other teams’ books are closed, so there has been no way to fact-check any of the owners’ claims. Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts, for example, recently said that 70 percent of the Cubs’ revenues come from “gameday operations” (ticket sales, concessions, etc.). But it went unsubstantiated because the Cubs’ books are closed. The league has only acknowledged some of the union’s many requests for documentation. Without supporting evidence, Ricketts’ claim, like countless others from team executives, can only be taken as an attempt to manipulate public sentiment.

Early Thursday morning, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that the MLBPA plans to offer a counter-proposal to MLB in which the union would suggest a season of more than 100 games and fully guaranteed prorated salaries. It seems like the two sides are quite far apart, so it may take longer than expected for them to reach an agreement.