BOSTON — The Red Sox fired manager Alex Cora on Tuesday, a day after baseball commissioner Rob Manfred implicated him in the sport’s sign-stealing scandal.
Cora was the bench coach for the Astros when they illicitly stole signs and won the 2017 World Series. He then led Boston to the title the following year in his first season as manager. Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were fired on Monday, an hour after Manfred suspended them for the 2020 season for their role in the cheating scheme.
Manfred’s nine-page report mentioned Cora 11 times, describing him as a key person in the planning and execution of the cheating scheme.
Cora met Tuesday with Red Sox management, less than a month before the start of spring training.
“Given the findings and the commissioner’s ruling, we collectively decided that it would not be possible for Alex to effectively lead the club going forward and we mutually agreed to part ways,” the team said in a statement attributed to owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner, CEO Sam Kennedy and Cora.
Manfred said Cora was among those who “originated and executed” aspects of the cheating scheme, in which the team used a centerfield camera to decode catchers’ signals to pitchers and banged on a trash can with a bat or massage gun near the dugout to let hitters know which pitch was coming.
Manfred announced he was withholding punishment of Cora until completing a separate investigation of accusations the Red Sox stole signs in 2018. Indications were the penalty would be equal or greater than what Hinch and Luhnow received.
“We agreed today that parting ways was the best thing for the organization,” Cora said in a statement released by the Red Sox. “I do not want to be a distraction to the Red Sox as they move forward.”
New Mets manager and former Astros player Carlos Beltran also was implicated by Manfred in his report Monday, the only player mentioned. Manfred decided that no players would be disciplined for breaking rules prohibiting the use of electronics to steal catcher’s signs in 2017 after levying penalties against Boston and the Yankees.
The Mets have not commented on Beltran’s status.
The Dodgers lost the 2017 World Series to the Astros and again in 2018 to the Red Sox.
“All clubs have been asked by Major League Baseball not to comment on today’s punishment of the Houston Astros as it’s inappropriate to comment on discipline imposed on another club,” Los Angeles said in a statement Monday night. “The Dodgers have also been asked not to comment on any wrongdoing during the 2017 World Series and will have no further comment at this time.”
A member of Boston’s 2007 championship club, Cora was hired in November to take over a Red Sox team that won back-to-back AL East titles in 2016-17 but failed to advance in the postseason under John Farrell.
Cora guided the team to a franchise-record 108 regular-season victories in 2018 and its fourth World Series title in 15 years. The Red Sox beat a pair of 100-win teams in the Yankees and Astros in the AL playoffs, then defeated the Dodgers in a five-game World Series to make Cora the first Puerto Rican manager to win a championship and the fifth manager to guide a team to a title in his first season.
He was rewarded by president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski with a new contract adding an extra guaranteed season in 2021, a deal that included a club option for 2022.
Dombrowski was fired in September after the Red Sox stumbled toward an 84-78 record and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2015. He was replaced this offseason by former Rays executive Chaim Bloom, who will lead the search for a new manager.
“This is a sad day for us,” Henry, Werner and Kennedy said in a statement. “Alex is a special person and a beloved member of the Red Sox. We are grateful for his impact on our franchise. We will miss his passion, his energy and his significant contributions to the communities of New England and Puerto Rico.”
Rangers All-Star pitcher Mike Minor took a jab on Twitter at Cora, who insinuated Minor wasn’t “playing the game the right way” when the left-hander encouraged a teammate to drop a popup against Boston during his final start of 2019 so Minor could pursue his 200th strikeout of the season.
“But he plays the game the right way...” Minor wrote.
The scandal — but not the severity of the punishment — is reminiscent of the New England Patriots’ sign-stealing scheme in 2007, in which the team videotaped opposing coaches to decipher their signals. The NFL fined the Patriots $250,000 and docked them a first-round draft pick, and also fined coach Bill Belichick $500,000.
Cora’s departure means 10 of the 30 MLB teams will start the 2020 season with a new manager.