Cora likely to fall next

New York Daily News - - SPORTS - BY DENNIS YOUNG

Base­ball brought the ham­mer down on the Astros. But while it sus­pended GM Jeff Luh­now and man­ager A.J. Hinch a year each, it says that the team’s sign-steal­ing was, out­side of then-bench coach Alex Cora, “player-driven and player-ex­e­cuted.” Com­mis­sioner Rob Man­fred re­leased the MLB in­ves­ti­ga­tion’s find­ings in a ten­page memo un­der his name.

No play­ers were pun­ished, although the re­port sug­gests that now-Mets man­ager Car­los Bel­tran was a key part of the cheat­ing. Cora was the high­estlevel em­ployee to be di­rectly in­volved.

He’ll cer­tainly re­ceive a stiff pun­ish­ment — maybe even end up fired like Luh­now and

Hinch — but Man­fred is wait­ing to pun­ish Cora un­til a par­al­lel Red Sox in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­cludes.

Ac­cord­ing to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, Luh­now is be­ing pun­ished for turn­ing a blind eye to the cheat­ing. “The in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­vealed no ev­i­dence to sug­gest that Luh­now was aware of the bang­ing scheme,” MLB says. “The in­ves­ti­ga­tion also re­vealed that Luh­now nei­ther de­vised nor ac­tively di­rected the ef­forts of the replay re­view room staff to de­code signs in 2017 or 2018.”

MLB didn’t re­ally care how much Luh­now knew, and pun­ished him for his fail­ure to con­trol the or­ga­ni­za­tion. “While Luh­now de­nies hav­ing any aware­ness that his replay re­view room staff was de­cod­ing and trans­mit­ting signs,” Man­fred writes, “There is both doc­u­men­tary and tes­ti­mo­nial ev­i­dence that in­di­cates Luh­now had some knowl­edge of those ef­forts, but he did not give it much at­ten­tion.”

Hinch is be­ing pun­ished for some­thing slightly dif­fer­ent. He ap­peared to be aware of the cheat­ing, and against it, but he failed to re­port it to his bosses.

“Hinch at­tempted to sig­nal his dis­ap­proval of the scheme by phys­i­cally dam­ag­ing the mon­i­tor on two oc­ca­sions, ne­ces­si­tat­ing its re­place­ment,” ac­cord­ing to MLB. (As a re­minder, the way the Astros’ “bang­ing scheme” worked is that the cen­ter-field cam­era feed was sent to a mon­i­tor near the dugout, and an em­ployee would bang on a trash can sig­nal­ing what pitch was com­ing.)

“How­ever, Hinch ad­mits he did not stop it and he did not no­tify play­ers or Cora that he dis­ap­proved of it, even af­ter the Red Sox were dis­ci­plined in Septem­ber 2017,” Man­fred writes.

While the front of­fice is ul­ti­mately re­spon­si­ble for let­ting the scheme op­er­ate, the in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­cludes that Cora and then-DH Car­los Bel­tran were cru­cial to it.

“Early in (2017), Cora be­gan to call the replay re­view room on the replay phone to ob­tain the sign in­for­ma­tion. On at least some oc­ca­sions, the em­ploy­ees in the replay re­view room com­mu­ni­cated the sign se­quence in­for­ma­tion by text mes­sage, which was re­ceived on the smart watch of a staff mem­ber on the bench, or in other cases on a cell phone stored nearby,” the re­port ex­plains.

But this sys­tem didn’t work very well. Two months into the 2017 sea­son, “a group of play­ers in­clud­ing Bel­tran” came up with the trash can set up, and Cora ex­e­cuted it. The trash can would be banged with a bat or a “mas­sage gun” for off-speed pitches, no bang for fast­ball.

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