The Boston Red Sox refused to say they were guilty of anything Wednesday, only to acknowledge their beloved manager Alex Cora admitted to cheating when he was the bench coach in Houston in 2017.
And it cost him his job.
Yet, as for their guilt, club officials pleaded throughout their 45-minute press conference for everyone to reserve judgement until Major League Baseball’s investigation concludes whether Cora or anyone on their team actually cheated in 2018.
In fact, when asked directly if he still feel they won the 2018 World Series fair and square, they didn’t hesitate.
“Absolutely, yes!’’ Red Sox president Sam Kennedy said.
“Absolutely!’’ echoed Red Sox owner John Henry.
It was almost as if they took a page out of the performance-enhancing drug violator handbook.
Deny. Deny. Deny.
The Red Sox didn’t own up to anything during the press conference, repeatedly saying they were following commissioner Rob Manfred’s directive that they couldn’t talk about the allegations until the investigation concludes.
“We ask that everyone reserve judgement until they determine whether rules were violated,’’ Henry said. “We are working with baseball to the fullest extent possible.’’
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The Red Sox ownership group heaped lavish praise on Cora throughout the press conference, saying they will “miss his passion, energy, sense of humor, and the way he cared about the entire organization.’’
And yet, kept saying they had no choice but to ditch him for being the mastermind of the Astros scandal – not for any of the allegations that he also cheated during the 2018 season as their manager.
“It’s important to recognize this mutual decision,’’ Kennedy said, “was related to incidents in Houston.’’
That doesn’t quite track.
If the Red Sox ownership truly doesn't know whether Cora and its own players cheated – particularly considering their love for Cora – why wouldn’t they have waited?
Or could it be that since Cora was honest and transparent during their meeting Tuesday before his dismissal? Did he fess up and tell them he cheated as the Red Sox manager in 2018 too?
And if Cora admitted to cheating, there was no reason for the Red Sox to completely hide behind Manfred’s directive.
Alex Cora spent two seasons as Boston's manager. (Photo: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports)
Remember, they didn’t hesitate for a moment when asked directly if they won the World Series “fair and square’’ over the Dodgers.
Maybe their answer was implying the Dodgers were cheating just as much.
Or perhaps they were referring to the fact that sign-stealing wasn’t responsible for the Dodgers hitting just .180 with a .550 OPS in that World Series.
Or maybe they were taking a page out of Astros owner Jim Crane’s handbook when he was said their 2017 World Series title was "absolutely not" tainted.
We’ll see if Boston's answers change when the investigation is completed in the next few weeks.
For now, they are telling their fans to sit tight, prepare for a season more resembling 2018 than the 84-win team of 2019.
“We have a burning desire to host a World Series here in Boston,’’ Henry said.
Said Red Sox chairman Tom Werner: “We obviously underperformed last year. We have every expectation that we’ll be competitive. I don’t consider us in a hole. We have a challenge in front of us and we’ll be ready at the start of the season.’’
Then again, if MLB's investigation reveals the Red Sox committed acts as serious as the Astros and the team is heavily fined with the loss of draft picks, they may have no choice but to start unloading players, including superstar Mookie Betts.
Maybe then, their feelings could change towards Cora.
“Alex, by his own admission,’’ Werner said, “played a central role in what went on in Houston. We all agreed it was wrong. We had a responsibility as stewards to have a standard here where that sort of behavior here is not acceptable. …
“But that doesn’t mitigate in our opinion the extraordinary talent that he has. We continue to be very fond of Alex.’’
And yet …
“It was ultimately an easy decision for the Red Sox and for Alex,’’ Kennedy said. "It was a mutual decision.’’
New Red Sox GM Chaim Bloom was asked repeatedly about finding a new manager. He offered no specifics, not saying whether he would stay within and promote Ron Roenicke, look outside at the likes of Dusty Baker and Buck Showalter, talk to former Red Sox players like Jason Varitek or Sam Fuld, or reach out to his old Tampa Bay Rays coaching staff and bring in Matt Quatraro.
“There’s no question it’s an unusual time to be doing a managerial search,’’ Bloom said, “being this close to spring training. Its impossible for this not to be a factor. We want to make sure we do this justice.’’
And when describing the qualities he desires in a manager?
“You look around the league, look at the successful managers,’’ Bloom said, “I think the common trend ultimately is that you put your players in best position to succeed. Tactical leadership. Chemistry aspect. Helping players become their best selves. …
“We want to make sure our next manager is authentic.’’
In other words, they want the next Alex Cora.
Just without the baggage.
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