January 15, 2020

With Only 27 Days Before Pitchers & Catchers Report, The Red Sox Do Not Have A Manager

In what was described as a "collective decision", the Red Sox front office (owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner, and president/CEO Sam Kennedy) and Alex Cora have "mutually agreed to part ways". A press conference is scheduled for Wednesday at 1:00 pm (ET).
Today we met to discuss the Commissioner's report related to the Houston Astros investigation. 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.
Cora's dismissal comes one day after MLB released its report on the Astros' 2017 sign-stealing operation, an illegal scheme Cora played an essential role in developing. Cora likely had a role in the 2018 Red Sox's sign-stealing. MLB is not announcing any punishment for Cora until that later investigation is complete. Considering Cora's involvement in two sign-stealing operations with two different teams over two consecutive seasons, a suspension of two or three seasons (or even a lifetime ban) is possible.

From Cora's portion of the statement:
We agreed today that parting ways was the best thing for the organization. I do not want to be a distraction to the Red Sox as they move forward. My two years as manager were the best years of my life. It was an honor to manage these teams and help bring a World Series Championship back to Boston. ... This is a special place. There is nothing like it in all of baseball, and I will miss it dearly.
Red Sox pitchers and catchers will report to spring training camp in less than one month (February 11) and by that time the team will have its fifth manager in the past 10 years. That manager will inherit, in the words of The Athletic's Jen McCaffrey, "a team with a boatload of roster uncertainty ... one that's now mired in scandal and facing ... potential draft pick losses, fines and suspensions".


allan said...

Alex Speier, Globe:

What a mess. What a devastating mess.

Seventy-eight days after the Red Sox announced the hiring of Chaim Bloom as their chief baseball officer, the job for which they hired him changed dramatically on Tuesday night with the announcement that Alex Cora is out as the team’s manager . The news sent a shockwave through an organization in which the manager’s presence was enormous.

Cora was not merely a tactician or clubhouse manager. To many, he represented a sort of organizational glue who connected disparate areas in a way that gave the entire organization an identity. He interacted directly with members of the scouting, player development, and analytics departments in a way that linked people and gave a sense of shared purpose. He modernized aspects of how the Red Sox operated, particularly in pushing the ball forward in terms of the role played by analytics in shaping on-field strategy. And in many ways, he was the most identifiable face of the franchise.

That’s not to say that Cora was perfect at his job – even setting aside the stench of scandal that now surrounds the organization as a result of Cora’s known role in the Astros’ sign-stealing of 2017, and the looming threat of massive penalties that may befall the Sox as a result of MLB’s investigation into Boston’s reported use of the video replay system to engage in electronic espionage in 2018.

Nonetheless, his place in the organization was considerable, his connections to its different parts real, and the belief in his ability to use the missteps of 2019 to improve and help the Sox in 2020 was widespread. The team had already identified the coaching staff for the coming season that it felt best complemented Cora. The task Bloom faces in filling the void left by Cora’s departure is thus a considerable one without a simple solution.

This wasn’t and isn’t a contingency the organization was anticipating or for which it had planned. As such, in his first managerial hiring as the leader of a baseball operations department, Bloom confronts an immense challenge. ...


SoSock said...

So I got long winded and had to divide it into two parts - oh well......
I have very mixed feelings about all of this. As a purist of sorts, I believe in fair play and abhor a cheater. But stealing signs has always been a part of the game. I am NOT defending the way in which they practiced this age-old gambit. They took it to a new level, one which would undoubtedly change the game if it was allowed to continue. But in the grand scheme of things, it is not like throwing a game, or illegally doctoring the equipment you play with. It is, in truth, simply taking a known practice and elevating it to a new level. A level that would give those using the method a clearly unfair advantage until either everyone started doing it, or the opposing teams knew about it and could defend themselves against it.
Long ago someone decided that it would behoove their team to devise a system of signals by which a runner on second base could tell his teammate at the plate what sign the catcher was giving. This gave the teams who first conceived the idea a decided advantage until everyone figured out what they were doing and started changing up the signals with a runner on second. As a youth coach I never taught my players to do that. BUT - I absolutely had to teach my pitchers and catchers that it was a common practice and that they had to adjust accordingly with runners on base. In that way, I taught them about the practice of cheating, whether I intended to or not. Every coach, myself included, watches opposing pitchers for little give-aways. The way the ball is held differently as different pitches are being called for. A subtle change in his ritual when he is about to throw to first. Etc, etc. We watch the runner on first who's known for his base-stealing prowess, looking for a slight change in his lead that might tip his hand, so we can yell "throw over!" The teams in this scandal used technology to elevate that practice to a level impossible to attain without said technology. But you could say the same thing about the slow motion videos of opposing teams that all coaches in every sport use now to analyze their opponents and look for those same give-aways or tendencies. The offensive football coach who watches hours of film and figures out that every time the left tackle for Team Z lines up with his foot a few inches closer to the center both outside linebackers are blitzing is considered a genius. But of course that technology is available to all teams and all teams know their opponents have it. This is different. I realize that. And I certainly think it's a clear violation of the rule and the ethical standards of the game. But to think that it wasn't going to happen eventually is rather naive in my opinion. And I dare say that plenty of other teams have either developed similar systems or have been actively trying to figure out a way to do so, even if none of the others are quite as bold or blatantly illegal as this. Hopefully the actions taken by MLB will convince them they need to just go ahead and drop those plans now. But I also see this as just a progression in the evolution of the game.

SoSock said...

Part two -
I imagine that in the not-too-distant future we will see some sort of secure wireless communication between the pitchers, catchers, and pitching coaches. Much like the in-helmet communication between NFL quarterbacks and the sideline. Technology is here to stay, whether we like it or not. And these younger players who have never known a world without these technologies will naturally find ways to incorporate it into their game. And that will include in the "game within the game". The cat and mouse game of trying to get an edge. I, and I imagine most other coaches, always seemed to have that one kid in the dugout who was hyper-analytical and studious. Often it would be this player that I would overhear telling other players that he had figured out their base coaches signs. Did he always have it right? Who Knows. But it was part of his game. And I would wager that somewhere right now some Little League coach who once had a young Alex Cora on his team is saying to himself - "Yep. That sounds like Alex."