Sign-stealing ‘not a two-man show’: Cora
Former bench coach says he deserves suspension but entire team was involved
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.”
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.