Boston Red Sox

Sep 20, 2019; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora (20) at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub

So let’s get this straight. The Houston Astros are under investigation for cheating in 2017. The Red Sox are now under investigation for cheating in 2018. And the one man who was in both dugouts on both occasions was current Red Sox manager Alex Cora.

How can baseball commissioner Rob Manfred possibly overlook this?

His credibility, after all, is now at stake.

We all know the history here. In 2017, with John Farrell as manager, the Red Sox were fined an undisclosed amount for using Apple watches in the dugout as part of a sign-stealing scheme. At the time, Manfred let the world know that any subsequent transgressions – by any team – would be subject to stiffer penalties. Manfred put everyone on notice that there would be no more shenanigans.

Since then, consecutive World Series winners in Houston (2017) and Boston (2018) have been exposed for basically spitting in the commissioner’s face, let alone in the eye black of the other 28 major league teams. When Houston got popped, many theorized that the Astros would eventually get walloped with major organizational penalties – namely the loss of draft picks and international bonus pool money, not to mention a sizable suspension for manager A.J. Hinch.

Of course, we’re still waiting. Now the Red Sox have been caught – for the second time – and Cora, who was Hinch’s bench coach in 2017, is similarly a two-time loser.

Let’s make something clear here: organizational penalties are great and all, but they’re impersonal. The Astros may lose bonus money. And the Red Sox may lose draft picks. Or both teams will lose both. But the penalties always mean a little more when someone specific is paying the price. This brings us to Hinch and, more specifically, Cora, who is now starting to look downright devious.

Here’s the point: if Manfred wants any real credibility, he has to hammer Cora here every bit as hard as he hammers Hinch. And he has to hit them both. Hard. Obviously, in Boston, we care far more about the manager of the Red Sox than we do the skipper of the Astros, so let’s focus on Cora. But it’s important to mention Hinch just so that no one thinks we’re singling Cora out.

Again, remember, the Red Sox and Cora have each been busted twice. Twice – and the second time came after a warning. How can they possibly justify that or even begin to argue that they have respect for opponents, the game, the spirit of competition and the commissioner himself? The draft picks and bonus money are a given. But if I were Manfred, I’d bounce Cora for 50 games and all of spring training, and I’d leave the Red Sox without a manager for what is essentially the first third of the season. And if you think that’s too harsh, remember that commissioner gave everyone a warning two years ago and two world championship teams have completely ignored his edict.

Admittedly, managers in baseball don’t do what they used to. Many of them are purely there to establish a stable work environment so that they players can maximize performance. In this case, that actually makes the transgressions worse. Managers are and always have been the link to highest floors or any organization, the uniformed representation of ownership and management. Anything that happens in the dugout or clubhouse is their responsibility – particularly during games – and Manfred has to punish not just some team, but someone.

As we all know, after all, somebody, somewhere, has to pay.

You can hear Tony Massarotti weekdays from 2-6 p.m. EST on the Felger & Massarotti program. Follow him on Twitter @TonyMassarotti.