Boston Red Sox Manager Alex Cora is likely to be suspended at least one season, probably two or more, by Major League Baseball for his role in cheating scandals in Houston and Boston. Associated Press/Phelan M. Ebenhack

This is supposed to be a feel-good week for the Boston Red Sox.

Top prospects are at Fenway Park for the team’s annual rookie development program. The annual Boston Baseball Writers’ dinner will be held on Thursday, a time to reflect on last season. The heavily promoted Winter Weekend fan fest begins Friday in Springfield, Massachusetts, an event manufactured to create offseason buzz for the beloved Sox.

But before the Red Sox could get on to the business of feeling good, they and Manager Alex Cora had to work on something else:

Cora’s letter of resignation.

He cheated, and was caught.

Cora not only knew of the Astros’ illegal sign stealing while serving as Houston’s bench coach – he orchestrated the scheme. Major League Baseball investigated the Astros’ violations – during their World Championship season of 2017 and into the 2018 season – and levied harsh punishments on Monday, including one-year suspensions of General Manager Jeff Luhnow and Manager AJ Hinch (both of whom were subsequently fired by the team’s owner).

Based on MLB’s actions, Cora is going to be suspended for a long time. The reason we don’t know how long? Because Cora is being investigated for another scandal – cheating as the Red Sox manager during Boston’s 2018 World Series run – and MLB is awaiting that outcome.

In other words, Cora has been found guilty of one crime; but, before the judge hands down his sentence, he’ll wait while Cora undergoes another trial.

A logical conclusion is that Cora will be gone at least one season, probably two and maybe more.

The Red Sox would have had no choice but to fire Cora. They could have hired an interim manager to fill in before Cora eventually returns. But a temporary manager is a lame-duck manager with no authority.

Fortunately the team leadership and Cora took care of matters Tuesday night, meeting and then issuing a press release, stating that “given the findings and the Commissioner’s ruling, we collectively decided that it would not be possible for Alex to effectively lead the club …”

With Cora gone, new team president Chaim Bloom can bring in his own man, in time to prepare for spring training. This Boston team, despite the disappointment of 2019, can still win.

Owner John Henry fired President Dave Dombrowski and brought in Bloom to establish – or re-establish – a commitment to building the organization. Cora, for all his talents as a baseball man and communicator, could no longer be part of that building. Bloom can start now to find Cora’s replacement.

Is there any doubt that Major League Baseball will not punish Cora to the fullest? Commissioner Rob Manfred released a nine-page statement Monday, explaining his punishment of the Astros (including the suspensions, the loss of first- and second-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021, and a $5 million fine – the highest allowable, according to MLB rules), and Cora is named throughout the statement.

It is Cora who helped create the system to steal signs from other teams – using video monitors and a message system that involved banging on a trash can. In Manfred’s statement, Cora’s name comes up five times before Hinch is mentioned.

Luhnow got punished, according to Manfred, because “it is the job of the General Manager to be aware of the activities of his staff and players …”

Hinch is gone because, even though he said “he did not support his players decoding signs using the monitor installed near the dugout and banging the trash can … Hinch admits he did not stop it and did not notify players or Cora that he disapproved of it, even though the Red Sox were disciplined in September 2017.”

Two crucial parts to that last sentence: the previous discipline of the Red Sox and the mentioning of Cora and the players.

In 2017, the Red Sox – with John Farrell as manager – were caught communicating opponents’ signs, using video monitors and smart watches. Boston was fined, and Manfred sent out a warning that “future violations would be taken seriously by my office.”

Manfred is apparently taking it seriously. Yet he is not punishing the players because it is “both difficult and impractical.” Instead, in a baseball sense, Manfred is going after the adults in the room.

The finger points at Cora. From Manfred’s statement:

“Cora arranged for a video room technician to install a monitor, displaying the center field camera feed, immediately outside of the Astros’ dugout …

“Cora began to call the replay review room on the replay phone to obtain sign information …

“Witnesses consistently describe this new scheme as player-driven … with the exception of Cora …

“Cora was involved in developing both the banging scheme and utilizing the replay review room to decode and transmit signs. Cora participated in both schemes, and through his active participation, implicitly condoned the players’ conduct.

“I will withhold determining the appropriate level of discipline for Cora until after the (Department of Investigations) completes its investigation (of the 2018 Red Sox) while Cora was the manager.”

Cora was the manager. No more. He should have occupied his Fenway Park office for years to come. He was seemingly made for the job, deftly able to handle his players and Boston’s pressurized market. But Cora made big mistakes, with Houston and, apparently, with the Red Sox.

He had to go.

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