McCarthy: Alex Cora deserves little sympathy after astonishing fall from grace

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

By Matt McCarthy, 985TheSportsHub.com

A little over one year ago, Alex Cora was the toast of baseball. Now, it's fair to wonder whether he'll have a prominent role in the game again.

What a remarkable and rapid fall from grace. Few figures in recent Red Sox memory have crashed and burned the way Cora did.

Cora's tenure in Boston marks one of the strangest of any manager to put on a Red Sox uniform, no small feat given how quickly managers burn out here. He took over a team in desperate need of a culture change and led them to the winningest season in franchise history. Now, he has left them embroiled in controversy and in more disarray than when he arrived.

The 2018 banner on the press box isn't coming down and the parade down Boylston Street still happened, but there's no doubt the Alex Cora experience has come with a price.

That cost will likely be enormous. The Red Sox are about to get slammed with sanctions from Major League Baseball and it is hard to argue they don't deserve it. The impending punishments will impact this franchise for years to come.

The effect of Alex Cora will be felt for a long, long time on Jersey Street.

The Red Sox were left with little choice but to fire Cora (or, as the team put it, part ways). They couldn't justify keeping a skipper who has at least a yearlong suspension hanging over his head and they certainly didn't need the new face of cheating in baseball as their manager.

Cora deserved to be fired, plain and simple.

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JANUARY 15: Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom addresses the departure of Alex Cora as manager of the Boston Red Sox during a press conference at Fenway Park on January 15, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. A MLB investigation concluded that Cora was involved in the Houston Astros sign stealing operation in 2017 while he was the bench coach. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

What perhaps Cora does not deserve is to be the lone figurehead of this scandal. His name is littered across Commissioner Rob Manfred's report, and there's little doubt he played a major role in the Astros sign-stealing scheme. But the apparent efforts of Astros staffers to pin the majority of the operation on Cora are nothing more than an embarrassing attempt at self-preservation. Let's call a spade a spade.

A.J. Hinch claimed he opposed the Cora-led plan, but did nothing to stop it outside of destroying a couple of TV monitors. Former Astros GM Jeff Luhnow, in his Nixonian "I am not a cheater" statement, blamed "the bench coach" and "lower-level employees" for the rampant cheating that happened on his watch.

They expect us to believe they were just innocent bystanders to the nefarious activities of the sinister Cora? Please.

Hinch and Luhnow both knew what was going on. They both endorsed and supported the cameras and trash-can-banging because it helped their team win ballgames. And when they were caught, they did what they could to point the finger at the guy who wasn't employed by the organization anymore.

It didn't save their jobs, but perhaps it's saved them some of the public scorn they deserve.

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 26: AJ Hinch #14 of the Houston Astros looks on during batting practice prior to Game Four of the 2019 World Series against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on October 26, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 26: AJ Hinch #14 of the Houston Astros looks on during batting practice prior to Game Four of the 2019 World Series against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on October 26, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)

But just because Hinch and Luhnow are skating a bit does not mean Cora deserves sympathy. Just because all of baseball is probably engaging in similar activities doesn't excuse Cora's actions.

He's about to get one of the harshest punishments in recent baseball history and few will shed a tear for him.

Cora approached his job with cockiness and bravado, traits that were sort of endearing when he was winning but now look downright foolish with our newfound perspective. He told the doubters to "suck it" after winning the World Series in 2018. He boasted that winter that his team would be even better in 2019  (spoiler alert: they weren't). He called out former Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman for the way the right-hander carries himself on the field, all but accusing Stroman of playing the game the "wrong" way.

And all along, Cora was stealing signs and cheating baseball. What a fraud.

It took no more than a few days to bring Alex Cora down. It will take far more than a few days to sort through the mess left in his wake.

And what a mess it is.

You can hear Matt McCarthy on 98.5 The Sports Hub's own Hardcore Baseball podcast and on various 98.5 The Sports Hub programs. Follow him on Twitter @MattMcCarthy985.