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Red Sox, Alex Cora agree to part ways amid sign-stealing investigation

Manager Alex Cora of the Boston Red Sox

Manager Alex Cora of the Boston Red Sox speaks to the media at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Red Sox didn’t even let Alex Cora get suspended first, skipping that step and basically firing their manager Tuesday night after he was implicated in the scathing Astros’ report and another investigation into his alleged Boston cheating on the way.

Cora was described by Rob Manfred, in so many words, as the ringleader of the Astros’ sign-stealing operation from the 2017 championship season. His name appears 11 times in Manfred’s nine-page report, and as the team’s bench coach, Cora is the only person of authority cited as being directly involved.

GM Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch both received one-year suspensions Monday from the commissioner, but then were fired roughly an hour later by Astros owner Jim Crane. As soon as that happened, the Red Sox found themselves in a difficult spot. Cora not only was the architect of the Astros’ illegal scheme, but also is a central figure in Manfred’s current probe into Boston’s own sign-stealing operation from their ’18 World Series title run, which included a 108-win regular season.

With that as a backdrop, Cora figured to receive an even lengthier suspension, and the Red Sox evidently chose not to wait out the commissioner’s decision. After meeting with Cora on Tuesday, the team described the parting as “mutual,” but it sure felt like he was fired in light of such incriminating evidence -- with more likely to come.

“Given the findings and the commissioner’s ruling, we collectively decided that it would not be possible for Alex to effectively lead the club going forward and we mutually agreed to part ways,” the Red Sox said in a statement attributed to owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner, CEO Sam Kennedy and Cora.

Cora’s exit in Boston now leaves the Mets’ Carlos Beltran as the only remaining name from Manfred’s report still employed in a management position and the team has been silent on his status since the report surfaced Monday. A source said Tuesday that the Mets are expected to address Beltran’s situation at some point this week, and possibly as early as Wednesday, but it was unclear what their decision would be.

Beltran was a player for the Astros in 2017, and despite being tabbed as one of the early designers of the sign-stealing scheme, he was spared any disciplinary measures as Manfred declined to punish any of the players. The fact that Beltran wasn’t suspended, however, doesn’t prevent the dark cloud of this Astros’ cheating scandal from extending all the way to Flushing, where it threatens the fresh start the Mets were hoping for with a new manager and an improved team.

The Red Sox clearly saw Cora as a festering problem and chose to free themselves sooner rather than later, with spring training less than a month away.

“We agreed [Tuesday] that parting ways was the best thing for the organization,” Cora said in a statement. I do not want to be a distraction to the Red Sox as they move forward. My two years as manager were the best years of my life. It was an honor to manage these teams and help bring a World Series championship back to Boston.”

But now that ’18 title looks to be forever tainted, after Cora’s Sox have been accused of using the replay review room to illegally decode opposing team’s signs, and his own career has become soiled by his misdeeds in Houston. Manfred’s report singled out Cora for “developing” the trash-can banging operation -- which employed the centerfield camera and dugout area TV monitor -- and also using the replay review for sign-stealing purposes.

His success as the Astros’ bench coach led to his first managing job with the Red Sox, and Cora led them to a World Series title in his rookie year. Now, after two seasons, at age 44, Cora has been relieved of those duties, and there’s no telling if he’ll ever get another chance.

“This is a sad day for us,” Henry, Werner and Kennedy said in the Red Sox statement. “Alex is a special person and a beloved member of the Red Sox. We are grateful for his impact on our franchise. We will miss his passion, his energy and his significant contributions to the communities of New England and Puerto Rico.”

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