It’s been an eye-opening week in baseball, or rather our eyes have been opened to see the weak in baseball.
Since Major League Baseball published its report on the sign-stealing scandal, three managers and a general manager have lost their jobs. We’ve also seen a comical amount of denial from the Houston Astros’ owner as well as Boston Red Sox players regarding the fallout.
Then there’s Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, who thought it was “ridiculous” people on social media questioned whether the “Houston Asterisks” wore buzzers to help batters identify pitches during the team’s run to the 2017 World Series.
“I have two options, “ he said. “One is cry or one is to go out there and play the game to help my team.”
There is a third option, of course: admit fault and express the need to vacate the title.
Of course, that takes strength. And the one thing we’ve all learned in this is that strength — character strength — is a scarce commodity.
It is for this reason that I believe when MLB finally decides how it will punish Alex Cora that it should not surpass the one-year suspension A.J. Hinch received. Cora might have been the central figure in coming up with and orchestrating the cheating in Houston as its bench coach, but he wasn’t the person entrusted with the keys to the franchise. That was Hinch. Had Hinch dealt with Cora appropriately, he might not have won a ring with the Boston Red Sox in 2018 or a job, but he and the game would at least still have integrity.
The fact that Commissioner Rob Manfred named Cora 11 times in the report suggests MLB views him more harshly, but it would be a mistake to welcome his Houston boss back to the game before him. At the end of the day, if the proverbial bucks stop with Hinch, the parameter for punishment should be set by him as well.
On its face, it’s difficult to determine how Cora should be punished because there is no true precedent for what he did. However, any suggestion he should be banned for life while his superiors from Texas are welcomed back next year reeks of white privilege.
There is no precedent for what Hinch did either. Hinch, the man who owns the worst winning percentage of any non-interim manager in the history of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Hinch, the man who while assistant general manager for the San Diego Padres never saw the squad finish with a winning record. Hinch, the man who is now considered a great manager based on his remarkable success with the Astros. Remarkable success that coincided with the arrival of Cora in 2017.
The narrative is being constructed that Hinch was a victim in the scheming of Cora, as if he were a helpless damsel. In actuality, Hinch appears to be an example of the classic case of a man falling up, and it appears he agreed to cheat as a way to stay up.
Raise your hand if you’ve heard this story before.
Don’t get me wrong: What Cora did is inexcusable. He not only helped undermine the credibility of the game, but he also damaged the legacy of one the game’s greatest pitchers in Clayton Kershaw, unfairlytook a banner from the Dodgers, one of the game’s greatest franchises, and turned Yu Darvish into a punch line. Not only that, but the history he made as being only the second Latino manager to win a championship is looked at with disdain and not admiration. It’s all awful, and I sincerely believe he should be banned for life.
So should Hinch.
However, because Hinch was only suspended for one year, it is unfair to make Cora the ultimate example here. None of this happens to the game of baseball if pre-scandal Hinch was the leader post-scandal Hinch is characterized as being.
Players such as Altuve were following Hinch’s lead, not that of Cora. The Red Sox benefited from what Hinch allowed to happen on his watch. Contracts like Darvish’s were signed, managers like Joe Girardi of the Yankees were displaced, and local economies in the American League were all negatively impacted by Hinch’s willingness to cheat.
He and Cora are forever linked in the tainting of the 2017 and 2018 seasons. They should remain linked when and if they return.