Red Sox sign-stealing scandal: Five things to know from team’s press conference after Alex Cora’s firing

The Boston Red Sox front office addressed the media Wednesday following the dismissal of manager Alex Cora after he was cited as one of the ringleaders behind the Houston Astros‘ 2017 sign-stealing scheme. Before Cora was hired as a first-year manager for the Red Sox in 2018, he was a bench coach for the 2017 Astros team.

On Monday, Major League Baseball published a nine-page report of its investigation into the Astros, and announced penalties for the club. As part of those penalties, Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were each suspended for one year. Shortly after the league’s announcement, Astros owner Jim Crane announced that both Hinch and Luhnow were fired.

While the league’s investigation into the 2017 Astros is complete, MLB is now shifting its attention to completing the investigation into the 2018 Red Sox and their alleged use of technology to steal signs. The club allegedly used its video replay room to steal signs throughout the 2018 season, and then used the knowledge to inform baserunners who would rely the signs to hitters. Cora is still awaiting an official decision from MLB regarding a punishment for his involvement in the Astros and Red Sox schemes.

Red Sox owner John Henry, chairman Thomas Werner, president Sam Kennedy and newly appointed general manager Chaim Bloom met with the media to discuss Cora’s firing, the league investigation and the future of the franchise. Here are five takeaways from the press conference:

1. Red Sox say Astros report enough to fire Cora

During Wednesday’s press conference, Boston’s front office said the firing of Alex Cora was based on his involvement in Houston’s sign-stealing scandal back in 2017 while he was a part of the club’s coaching staff. In MLB’s report, Cora is credited with beginning to call the Astros’ replay review room on the replay dugout phone to obtain sign information.

“Alex by his own admission, and we agreed, played a central role in what went on in Houston,” Werner said. “And we all agreed that it was wrong and that we had a responsibility as stewards, as John [Henry] had said, to have a standard here where that sort of behavior is not acceptable.”

The Red Sox top execs said they had no advance knowledge of the findings of the league’s report of the investigation into Houston. They said they read and reacted in real-time, reviewing the report on Monday and meeting with Cora on Tuesday. Werner noted their mutual decision to part ways came from the sign-stealing incidents that took place in Houston.

“We met with Alex yesterday, and everyone went into that meeting as trying to answer the question of what was in the best interest of the Boston Red Sox,” Werner said. “Alex was professional, understanding that he had made a mistake and 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. What Alex did was wrong and he would agree to that. We all agreed that moving forward would be very difficult. With what he did in Houston, it would be difficult for him to continue to lead the Red Sox.”

2. Red Sox ask fans to ‘reserve judgement’

The Red Sox front office provided some insight into the team’s firing of Cora, but for the most part, the 45-minute press conference included a whole lot of non-answers. That was especially true when it came to the club’s ongoing investigation conducted by the league. It makes sense, but the go-to statement for the Boston officials got a little tiring. 

When asked directly (or even indirectly, at times) about the league’s current investigation into the accusations of the Red Sox stealing signs during their 2018 championship season, the front office responded by asking fans and others to “reserve judgement” about what the team did or did not do until MLB’s investigation comes to light.

It was a common answer, used multiple times throughout the presser, even in back-to-back exchanges with reporters. When asked about the potential penalties coming from the league and how it will impact the club’s offseason decisions, Bloom responded: “With respect to the investigation again, we do need to reserve comment on it until it’s complete.”

Then officials were asked if the team was conducting its own internal investigation into the electronic sign-stealing matter, and Kennedy responded: “Again, we’re going to honor the commissioner’s directive to not discuss anything related to the baseball investigation.”

Henry then added the following peculiar statement: “This is a Major League Baseball investigation and they have much more of an ability to investigate than we ever would.”

3. How will they fill managerial vacancy?

With Cora gone, the next step for the Red Sox will be to fill their open manager position. With about a month to go until spring training, the club will have to begin preparations for its search and interview process soon. Boston’s in the same boat as the Astros — who are without A.J. Hinch — and it’s a tough spot to be in.

“There’s no question it’s an unusual time to be doing a managerial search. … We want to make sure we do this justice,” Bloom said on Wednesday. He also added that he “fully expects” to consider internal candidates for the managerial opening. “We have a lot of regards for our [current] coaches. It’s an impressive group. There’s no reason to think a number of them wouldn’t deserve consideration for this.”

“We are going to turn our attention to figuring out who our next manager is going to be, and what that means for the rest of the staff.”

CBS Sports’ own R.J. Anderson took a closer look at the top five candidates who could become Cora’s replacement.

4. Sox won’t say if watch incident came up in interview

When asked whether the Red Sox’s sign-stealing incident using Apple Watches in 2017 was a topic brought up during Cora’s interview process, the Red Sox officials essentially responded with “no comment.” 

“There will be a time when we’ll be able to talk about this fully but we ask our fans to reserve judgment on any conclusions they reach until the commissioner’s investigation is over,” Werner said. “But we obviously took the Apple Watch incident very seriously and we had communications with other personnel about that.”

“We did take steps after the 2017 Apple Watch incident,” Henry said. “We took a number of steps to ensure we didn’t have a problem going forward.” 

The league found the Red Sox guilty of illegally stealing signs using Apple Watches in 2017, and the club was penalized with an undisclosed fine. Following the incident, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred issued a memo to all 30 MLB teams warning against more severe penalties for teams who break the rules as it pertains to using technology to steal signs.

The Red Sox history with sign-stealing figures to play a role in whatever punishment Manfred hands out at the conclusion of MLB’s investigation.

5. Front office believes title isn’t tainted

When the Red Sox front office was first asked about whether or not findings from the league’s investigation could attach an asterisk to the club’s 2018 championship, Werner returned to the “reserve judgment” line. But further in the press conference, another question was asked regarding the 2018 title, specifically whether the Red Sox defeated the Dodgers in the World Series fairly.

Kennedy responded: “Absolutely, yes.”

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