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Red Sox fire Cora after scandal

BOSTON — Alex Cora has already been identified as a ringleader in an illegal system of sign stealing when he was with the Houston Astros.

The Red Sox didn’t wait to see what punishment Major League Baseball might give him for possibly bringing a similar scheme with him to Boston.

Cora was fired by the team he led to the 2018 World Series title on Tuesday night, one day after baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said he was “an active participant” in the Astros’ cheating when he was a bench coach in Houston.

Manfred mentioned Cora by name 11 times in a nine-page report, saying he “originated and executed” the scheme in which Houston used a center field camera to decode catchers’ signals to pitchers, then banged on a trash can to relay the signs to batters so they would know what type of pitch was coming.

The Astros fired manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow, making that announcement an hour after Manfred suspended them for the 2020 season for their roles in the cheating scheme. Cora met Tuesday with Boston management and they issued a release saying they had “mutually agreed to part ways.”

“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,” the team said in a statement attributed to owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner, CEO Sam Kennedy and Cora.

The team called a news conference for Wednesday afternoon to address the scandal, which leaves it without a manager less than a month before pitchers and catchers are due to report to spring training.

Bench coach Ron Roenicke, who spent five years managing the Milwaukee Brewers, is the most experienced member of the current coaching staff; former Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek has also been mentioned as a possible replacement.

In suspending Luhnow and Hinch, Manfred said he was withholding Cora’s punishment until completing a separate investigation of accusations the Red Sox stole signs in 2018. That investigation will continue; Cora and the Red Sox could both face additional penalties.

“We agreed today that parting ways was the best thing for the organization,” Cora said in a statement released by the team. “I do not want to be a distraction to the Red Sox as they move forward.”

New Mets manager and former Astros player Carlos Beltran also was implicated by Manfred in his report Monday — the only player mentioned. Manfred decided that no players would be disciplined for breaking rules prohibiting the use of electronics to steal catchers’ signs in 2017 after levying penalties against Boston and the New York Yankees.

The Mets declined comment on Beltran’s status.

The Los Angeles Dodgers lost the 2017 World Series to the Astros and again in 2018 to the Red Sox.

“All clubs have been asked by Major League Baseball not to comment on today’s punishment of the Houston Astros as it’s inappropriate to comment on discipline imposed on another club,” Los Angeles said in a statement Monday night. “The Dodgers have also been asked not to comment on any wrongdoing during the 2017 World Series and will have no further comment at this time.”

Astros look ahead

HOUSTON — The Houston Astros suddenly have a couple more holes to fill.

Less than a month before the start of spring training, the American League champions are without a manager and general manager after AJ Hinch and Jeff Luhnow were suspended by Major League Baseball and subsequently fired by team owner Jim Crane for the club’s sign-stealing scheme.

The penalties announced by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on Monday came after he found illicit use of electronics to steal signs in Houston’s run to the 2017 World Series championship and again in the 2018 season. The Astros were also fined $5 million, which is the maximum allowed under the Major League Constitution, and must forfeit their next two first- and second-round amateur draft picks.

Now that the punishment has been handed out and Hinch and Luhnow, the architects of Houston’s unprecedented success, the franchise must find a way to move forward. First the Astros must hire a manager and general manager who will try and continue the success that the previous regime built.

“I’m optimistic,” Crane said Monday. “This thing is deep here there are a lot of smart people here. We’ll have a speed bump here … this is a tough day. But can we recover? Absolutely. And we’ll have a great team next year.”

Even with all the chaos surrounding the team, the Astros are expected to be favorites to win the AL West title again this season. They lost ace Gerrit Cole to the Yankees in free agency, but return almost all the key pieces that helped them to their second World Series in three year, this time capped by a Game 7 loss to Washington.

It’s unclear if Hinch’s firing will impact team morale. The 45-year-old Hinch was a favorite among players for his management style and interaction with the team. The former catcher and Stanford graduate was 481-329 in five seasons in Houston with four playoff trips.

To Crane, finding someone to replace him is the priority.

“We’ll quickly look for someone to manage the team … certainly we have possibilities internally,” he said. “We’ll also look outside.”

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