Purple Sox quietly rehire Alex Cora amid election chaos, show once more that MLB would not care about Astros scandal
Alex Cora is once again the manager of the Boston Red Sox, news that broke with a Jon Heyman tweet at 9:16 a.m ET on Friday.
Big baseball news, of course, but you know what else was happening in that moment? The country was absorbing — some with joy, some with anger, some with delusion — the announcement of the results of more counted votes in Pennsylvania, a batch of ballots that put Joe Biden ahead of Donald Trump in the race to become the next president of our United States. The Cora news was quite the development, and it came not too long after the news that Biden had pulled ahead of Trump in Georgia, on Day Four of election results. With either Georgia or Pennsylvania, Biden would secure the presidency. Both would make it a runaway.
So, yeah, people were talking about something other than the manager of a baseball team in Massachusetts. Talk about your classic news dumps.
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The rehiring of Cora is, no doubt, controversial. He was fired by the Red Sox in January 2020 and suspended for one season by MLB a few months later for his roles in the 2017 Astros sign-stealing scandal and 2018 Red Sox sign-stealing scandal. Cora was a bench coach for the Houston club and played a large role in the cheating, which helped lift the Astros to the World Series title. Cora was hired as the Red Sox’s manager after that season, then helped lead Boston to the 2018 World Series title.
To bring him back as soon as possible — the suspension was for one season, not one year, which is why he was eligible to return a little over six months after he was suspended — after he was punished for two separate sign-stealing scandals is a bit controversial. That’s not to say everyone hates it, of course. Cora was and is a popular figure in the sport, and many feel he was one of the few unfairly singled out, especially when compared with the players who were offered immunity by commissioner Rob Manfred.
Announcing this hiring within a half-hour of the biggest election news of the past few years sure makes it seem like the Red Sox were trying to avoid criticism that might have normally come their way. They’ll deny that, but the optics are unavoidable. They announced Ron Roenicke wouldn’t be back for 2021 in late September, remember. They could have announced Cora before the election started — he’s been considered by some as shoo-in for a while now — or waited until the election ended.
Instead, the news broke within a half-hour of earth-shaking news out of Philadelphia.
And the hiring of Cora is yet more proof that, even with as much anger as was shown when the scandal broke and punishments were handed out, that those inside baseball don’t really care about what happened. The other manager fired and suspended for the Astros scandal, A.J. Hinch, beat Cora back into the game.
Hinch was hired by the Tigers as their new manager on Oct. 30. Know what else happened that day? The White Sox hired Tony La Russa, skipper of three World Series championship teams in his career, to come out of his managerial retirement and step back into the dugout at 76 years old.
Convenient for the Tigers, eh?
And, look, this isn’t even to say the Red Sox or Tigers should be chastised for their choice of managers. Both Cora and Hinch served their suspensions as handed down by MLB. Both Cora and Hinch are otherwise respected baseball people, and if the Red Sox and Tigers didn’t hire them, someone eventually would have. That they were welcomed back so very quickly feels a little odd, but that’s not a big thing.
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It’s also worth noting that the hirings of Cora and Hinch seem to bode well for at least one player. George Springer is part of the first group of Astros players involved with the scandal to hit the free-agent market since the story broke last winter, and he’s by far the biggest name (with or without the scandal, Josh Reddick, who turns 34 in February, wasn’t landing a massive free-agent deal coming off a season with a .693 OPS).
Like both Cora and Hinch, Springer is very good at his job. And like those two managers, it was fair to wonder whether the stink of participating in the scandal would impact his next job. Turns out, it didn’t impact either Cora or Hinch at all, so it stands to reason it won’t impact Springer, either.
What about Carlos Beltran, though? That’s a good question. Beltran was a player on that 2017 Astros team, the only player singled out by MLB as having a specific role in the scandal with the investigation that was revealed last winter. By then, Beltran had retired and been hired as the manager of the Mets. After the scandal broke, Beltran was fired, without having managed a single game for the club.
What does his future look like? Will he get another managerial job? Does he even want another managerial job? He was pretty clear the Mets’ job was the only one he was interested in last offseason. At any rate, his path back to the majors, should he want it, seems to be cleared.