Cora likely to fall next
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.