Sign-steal­ing ‘not a two-man show’: Cora

For­mer bench coach says he de­serves sus­pen­sion but en­tire team was in­volved

Calgary Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

Ma­jor League Base­ball sus­pended for­mer Hous­ton Astros gen­eral man­ager Jeff Luh­now for one season af­ter an in­ves­ti­ga­tion found that he had “some knowl­edge” of his team’s sign-steal­ing op­er­a­tion dur­ing the 2017 and 2018 sea­sons, but “failed to take any ad­e­quate steps” to stop it.

Af­ter the de­ci­sion was handed down and the Astros fired Luh­now, he is­sued a state­ment in which he de­nied re­spon­si­bil­ity for the scheme and, with­out nam­ing any names, pointed his fin­ger mainly at one per­son: bench coach Alex Cora, whom MLB in­ves­ti­ga­tors de­scribed as an ac­tive par­tic­i­pant.

“I did not know rules were be­ing bro­ken,” Luh­now’s state­ment read. “As the com­mis­sioner set out in his state­ment, I did not per­son­ally di­rect, over­see or en­gage in any mis­con­duct: The sign-steal­ing ini­tia­tive was not planned or di­rected by base­ball man­age­ment; the trash can bang­ing was driven and ex­e­cuted by play­ers, and the video de­cod­ing of signs orig­i­nated and was ex­e­cuted by lower-level em­ploy­ees work­ing with the bench coach. I am deeply up­set that I wasn’t in­formed of any mis­con­duct be­cause I would have stopped it.”

Cora, who lost his job as man­ager of the Bos­ton Red Sox and also was sus­pended for one season be­cause of his role in the Astros’ scheme, now is fir­ing back, say­ing the plot to steal signs was a teamwide af­fair.

“There has been a nar­ra­tive out there of what hap­pened . ... I have read many things that are true and many oth­ers that are not,” he told ESPN’S Marly Rivera. “Out of this whole process, if there is one thing that I com­pletely re­ject and dis­agree with is peo­ple within the Astros’ or­ga­ni­za­tion sin­gling me out, par­tic­u­larly Jeff Luh­now, as if I were the sole mas­ter­mind. The com­mis­sioner’s re­port sort of ex­plained, in its own way, what hap­pened. But the (Astros play­ers) have spo­ken up and re­futed any al­le­ga­tions that I was solely re­spon­si­ble.”

The MLB in­ves­ti­ga­tion de­scribed the sign-steal­ing scheme as “player-driven,” but men­tioned only one player by name: des­ig­nated hit­ter Car­los Bel­tran.

“If there is one thing I am ab­so­lutely sure of, it is that it was not a two-man show,” Cora told Rivera. “We all did it. And let me be very clear that I am not deny­ing my re­spon­si­bil­ity, be­cause we were all re­spon­si­ble.”

Even though MLB found that for­mer Astros man­ager A.J. Hinch “nei­ther de­vised the bang­ing scheme nor par­tic­i­pated” in it and dis­ap­proved of the plot, the league also sus­pended him for a season over his fail­ure to stop it. In Fe­bru­ary, Hinch took re­spon­si­bil­ity, say­ing “we did it to our­selves” while adding that it was a “fair ques­tion” to won­der whether the Astros’ 2017 World Se­ries ti­tle was tainted be­cause of the sign-steal­ing scheme.

Cora echoed Hinch’s thoughts. “Out of re­spect for the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, I de­cided to stay out of the spot­light. Talk­ing about it wasn’t go­ing to change any­thing,” he said. “I de­serve my sus­pen­sion and I’m pay­ing the price for my ac­tions. And I am not proud of what hap­pened. We made a mis­take as a group, the en­tire (Astros) team. What hap­pened was some­thing that, if you ask any­one in­volved, no one is proud of it. We’re all at fault. Ev­ery­body. We’re all re­spon­si­ble. Ev­ery­one who was part of the team from around mid-may un­til the end of the season, we are all re­spon­si­ble.”

TEAM OWN­ERS PRO­POSE 70-75 GAME SEASON

Ma­jor League Base­ball’s lat­est of­fer to the play­ers was pre­sented Fri­day and calls for a season of between 70 and 75 games, ESPN’S Karl Ravech re­ported.

Own­ers also are will­ing to up their fi­nan­cial of­fer to play­ers, pay­ing them between 80 and 85 per cent of their pro-rated salaries and giv­ing them money from the play­off pool.

On Tues­day, the MLB Play­ers As­so­ci­a­tion re­port­edly sub­mit­ted an out­line for an 89-game season in which the play­ers would get their full pro-rated salaries. A day ear­lier, the own­ers re­port­edly pro­posed a 76-game season in which play­ers would be paid 75 per cent of their pro-rated salaries, and only 50 per cent if there wasn’t a full post-season.

Each of­fer drew a neg­a­tive re­sponse from the op­pos­ing side.

Com­mis­sioner Rob Man­fred said Thurs­day that an­other of­fer from the own­ers was forth­com­ing and that he was “100 per cent” cer­tain the season will oc­cur.

Base­ball halted spring train­ing on March 12 be­cause of the coro­n­avirus pan­demic and even­tu­ally pushed back open­ing day in­def­i­nitely. In the sub­se­quent months, the own­ers and play­ers have dis­agreed over both the for­mat and the fi­nances of a back-to-ac­tion plan.

Man­fred said that own­er­ship’s pend­ing pro­posal would be “an­other sig­nif­i­cant move in the play­ers’ di­rec­tion in terms of the salary is­sue that has kept us apart.”

MAD­DIE MEYER/GETTY IMAGES FILES

For­mer Hous­ton bench coach Alex Cora says “ev­ery­one who was part of the team from around mid-may (2017) un­til the end of the season” was re­spon­si­ble for the sign-steal­ing scan­dal.

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