BOSTON -- Alex Cora admitted to playing a central role in the sign-stealing scheme that the Houston Astros used in their 2017 World Series title run, according to the brass for his current team, the Boston Red Sox.
Red Sox owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner, president Sam Kennedy and chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom addressed the media for the first time since Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch were suspended by MLB and subsequently fired. Cora was mentioned prominently in MLB's ruling, and he and the Red Sox decided to part ways Tuesday night.
"Alex, by his own admission, we agreed, played a central role in what happened in Houston," Werner said. "And we all agreed that it was wrong, and we had a responsibility as stewards, as John has said, to have a standard here where that sort of behavior is not acceptable."
When Astros owner Jim Crane dramatically announced on live television that he was letting go of Hinch and Luhnow, the architects of the analytics-driven behemoth in Houston, the focus turned to Boston and its 44-year-old manager.
"It's not ideal," Henry said. "It's not what we would like to be doing at this point. We were all surprised to read this report on Monday. But this is ... I don't know if you would call it a logical conclusion, but this is where we are as a result of that."
When asked about the ongoing investigation by MLB into the allegations that the Red Sox stole signs during their 2018 World Series run using the video replay room, the leadership group repeatedly declined to comment and added that the league has directed them not to talk about the investigation. Red Sox officials noted that it was made clear to Cora what the rules were regarding the use of in-game video.
"Regarding the ongoing investigation here in Boston, MLB is doing a thorough investigation -- as thorough as what took place in Houston -- and we believe that all the facts will be ascertained," Henry read from a prepared statement. "We would ask that everyone reserve judgment until MLB completes its investigation and determines whether rules were violated."
The Red Sox officials were asked if they believe Boston beat the L.A. Dodgers fair and square in 2018, when they clinched a World Series title in five games.
"Absolutely, yes," Kennedy said.
On Monday, MLB said that the investigation into the Red Sox is ongoing and that a punishment for Cora is coming soon. The statement on the Astros mentions Cora's name on 11 different occasions, saying that he was the only coach or front-office person who actively helped implement the system the Astros used to steal signs.
The Red Sox decided not to wait for Cora's punishment to make a decision, especially with the team's Winter Weekend event on Friday and Saturday, where Cora was scheduled to appear. Kennedy added that the team deciding to part ways with Cora was "exclusively" related to the results of the report on the Astros and unrelated to the ongoing investigation in Boston.
"We met with Alex yesterday, and as John has said, everyone went into that meeting trying to answer the question, 'What was in the best interest of the Boston Red Sox?'" Werner said. "Alex was professional, understanding that he had made a mistake, so after a couple of conversations, we all mutually agreed that we needed to part ways. ... He admitted that what he did was wrong, but that doesn't mitigate, in our opinion, the extraordinary talent that he has. And we continue to be very fond of Alex."
The most awkward moment of the news conference arose when the Red Sox leadership group was asked if they believe Cora will ever manage again in the big leagues. After a long pause, Kennedy jumped in to answer.
"I think Alex is an incredibly talented manager, and accomplished great things with us," Kennedy said. "And he's now -- he expressed remorse; he apologized yesterday to us for the embarrassment that this caused. And I think, he'll go through a process of rehabilitation and we'll see what happens. It'd be hard to speculate, but he is an extreme talent."
Bloom did not rule out an interim managerial solution for the 2020 season but said he'd like to "get it done as soon as possible." He also did not rule out the possibility that the team could enter spring training without a manager.
"There's no question it's an unusual time to be doing a managerial search -- being at the point in the winter that we are, being this close to spring training," Bloom said. "It's impossible for that not to be a factor in how we process, but it's not going to be the only factor, and we want to make sure we do this justice."
Bloom acknowledged that the new manager enters a "unique situation."
"We would want to make sure that whoever is in that chair next has the ability to handle it," he said.
Several longtime former managers are on the market, such as Bruce Bochy, Buck Showalter, Mike Scioscia and Dusty Baker, but Bloom is known for his analytically driven approach. He said he doesn't like to categorize people by their age or experience level.
"In my past with the Rays, I worked with someone who would probably roll his eyes to hear me say this, but over time especially as [Joe Maddon] got some tenure on the job, became one of the older managers in baseball and then worked with one of the youngest," Bloom said. "Everyone brings different things to the table. I don't like to categorize people, typecast people. It's unfair to them and in doing that, it would be unfair to us. It's the sum total of all the characters that someone brings to the table."
Bloom shared his disappointment that he would not be working with Cora, once one of the main attractions of the Red Sox baseball operations department.
"It's really disappointing. I told you guys on that day that I had really high regard for his talents as a manager and I still do," Bloom said. "Unfortunately because of what came out in that report, it just wasn't possible... Although I don't know him as well as the other folks that were up on the stage with me, I would echo everything. It was very clear in the time we spent together and getting to know each other that he was an extremely impressive person and there's nothing but sadness that this is where we are."
Over the course of the 45-minute news conference, the Red Sox leadership group praised Cora for everything from his passion, to his energy, to his sense of humor and his ability to work with all personality types. But they stressed that Boston's focus now must turn toward the new season, despite the dark cloud of MLB's investigation.
"Well, of course it's disappointing, but yesterday we all mutually agreed that Alex couldn't lead this organization going forward," Werner said. "And so we've turned the page, and after this press conference, we're gonna address the 2020 season. So we move on."