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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

The Houston Astros were the dirtiest, most rotten scoundrels in sports when the pandemic hit, sparing them the repeated indignity that would have come with the 2020 baseball season. And now, it seems, the two men most severely punished may similarly escape to at least some degree.

But in Boston, at least, here’s the real story: what does this mean for Alex Cora?

In case you missed it, Buster Olney of ESPN reported on Thursday that the suspensions of former Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch would be fulfilled this year even if the baseball season is canceled entirely. And while both Luhnow and Hinch were fired as a result of the Astros cheating scandal, they could end up missing no games as a result of the suspension than any other executive and manager in the major leagues. And, like most everyone else, they could be back in the majors in 2021.

Crazy, right?

All of this brings us to Cora, who now presents a rather curious case. To date, remember, Cora has NOT been disciplined by commissioner Rob Manfred, who deferred judgment on the former Red Sox manager when he issued his statement on the Astros cheating scandal in January:

I will withhold determining the appropriate level of discipline for Cora until after [MLB] completes its investigation of the allegations that the Red Sox engaged in impermissible electronic sign stealing in 2018 while Cora was the manager.

So here’s the question: if and when MLB finally gets around to issuing the report on the 2018 Red Sox, will Cora now be subject to greater discipline than either Luhnow or Hinch, who could each be back in the game as soon as next year? In the case of the Astros, after all, nobody had any inclination that COVID-19 could wipe out the entire season. As such, Manfred’s punishment specified that Luhnow would be reinstated “following the completion of the 2020 World Series,” according to Olney.

But in the case of Cora – again, because MLB has seemingly dragged its feet in issuing its report – the cancellation of the 2020 season is now very much in play and Manfred has the liberty of adjusting Cora’s suspension as a result.

Now, if you’re the Red Sox – or, for that matter, Cora – you have a right to be annoyed. Recently, Manfred has indicated that the investigation of the Red Sox is complete. Weeks ago, an attorney representing MLB in a court case involving Draft Kings, said that the Red Sox did not agree with the commissioner’s findings in the 2018 investigation. And yet, nobody publicly knows what those findings are because Manfred and MLB have not issued the report.

In the interim, the world has been infected by COVID-19 and the entire landscape has changed.

In the end, here is the peculiar truth. Cora could end up paying a bigger price than anyone in the Astros cheating scandal and not necessarily because he was guilty of more – but because MLB dragged its feet in issuing a second report. Initially, there was some indication that MLB was prepared to announce its finding on the Red Sox before the start of spring training nearly two months ago. That never happened. Now the 2020 season is in jeopardy and Alex Cora could face a stiffer penalty than the manager and GM of the Astros at least partly because the league has been slow in issuing its ruling.

Certainly, cheaters never prosper.

But this is ridiculous.

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

Sources: Astros bans end in '20 even if no games

Because AJ Hinch's and Jeff Luhnow's suspensions are tied to the end of the 2020 postseason rather than a specific number of games, MLB will view them as having served their discipline this year no matter what, sources told ESPN.