Alex Cora is serving his one-year suspension from baseball at home in Puerto Rico, hunkering down with his family during the global pandemic, but he has not stopped thinking about baseball.
I spoke with Cora for 15 minutes Thursday afternoon, Cora’s first interview with a Greater Boston media outlet since mid-January when he was canned by the Red Sox after Major League Baseball released the findings of its investigation into the Houston Astros 2017 cheating scandal (Cora was Houston’s bench coach).
Does he want to manage again when he’s first eligible in 2021?
“If this was a regular time and they were playing games, I would say yes,” said Cora. “I would love to be back in 2021 in some capacity. I love managing at the big league level.
“But right now, I’m still kind of like putting my game plan together. It’s not where I want it to be. But obviously with everything that’s going on, with my daughter going into her senior year of high school, we as a family have to see what we want to do.
“We have plans for college, but we have no idea now. Everything changed. Her situation going into college is going to be part of what I decide.”
He knows there will be plenty of buzz about him returning to the Red Sox in 2021. Cora’s former bench coach, Ron Roenicke, is Boston’s manager for 2020, but he is working on a one-year deal and may never have a chance to manage if baseball’s owners and players can’t agree on a return plan after the game was halted in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Does Cora think another team would hire him to manage?
“I know it’s not going to be easy, as far as people giving me a chance,” he said. “They are going to look back and then they are going to have to make up their minds. But at the end, I’m paying the price.
“I’m embarrassed. I’m sorry for what happened. And we have to move on.
“My daughter’s education is very important to me. We had talked about her going to college in the States, but now we don’t know what is going to happen.”
Would Cora want to return to the Fenway Park dugout?
"They have a good group over there,'' he said with a chuckle. "Hopefully Ron gets a chance to manage and he's going to do a good job. Me talking about being there obviously right now is not even part of the equation.
“Obviously I’m suspended. We’ve decided we have to move on, and as of now, I don’t want to . . . they have their hands full with the season there.
“They have a good group of guys, and [chief baseball officer] Chaim [Bloom] is going to do a good job. I love the city, I love the franchise, they gave me a shot. We have a great relationship, but that doesn’t mean we are going to go that route. I need to respect that.‘'
Cora had been silent for five months since the report on the Astros was released, but made headlines last week when he spoke with ESPN’s Marly Rivera about his role in the scandal. He objected to suggestions that he and veteran slugger Carlos Beltran (who subsequently lost his new job as Mets manager) were the only ones responsible. He rejected being singled out by former Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow.
“The reason I talked about the Houston thing the way that I did was because I know too many things about that investigation,” Cora told the Globe. “For some reason, the information was leaked to the Wall Street Journal. I read that Carlos was a bully.
“The timing is right for me now to talk about that. I think I did a favor to the commissioner [Rob Manfred], telling him, ‘We [expletive] up.’ I told Rob, ‘You held me hostage for seven months. I stayed quiet. Now this is what I’m going to say.'
"I said what I said about the Houston thing because of what Jeff did. Everything I said, I meant. The whole thing that really bothered me was Jeff just saying 'the bench coach.' He should have just said 'Alex Cora.' That's why I said what I said.
“It felt like there was something weird about how information was leaked. I do believe, honestly, we [expletive] up. That’s it. People are paying the price in different ways. A.J. [Hinch, former Astros manager] and Jeff were suspended. Carlos was in the report and he’s not in baseball right now. The players, they paid the price a little bit in spring training.
“But it was ‘we.’ ‘We’ did it. Whoever was there from May until the end, they know. When the players talked about it, some of them went straight up to what happened. Some of them, they didn’t. But at the end, we made a huge mistake and that’s it. We’ll see where it takes us.”
Cora had less to say about the subsequent investigation into his 2018 world champion Red Sox. MLB’s report found the Sox guilty of relaying signs from a Fenway video room that was supposed to be off-limits to players. The Sox lost a second-round draft pick and video replay system operator J.T. Watkins was suspended for a year.
I suggested to Cora that Watkins appeared to have been singled out much the way Cora was in Houston.
“I don’t want to get into specifics with this,‘' he answered. “I went through a lot with MLB. I respect the decision of Rob in the Houston one. I was very honest with MLB in the second one.
“It sucks that I was part of both investigations. It was [expletive] hell. Going through the whole process for seven months. I remember when it came out, Nov. 12 or 13, whatever. Then until the end, a month ago with the other one.
“I know J.T. and how he works. I trust the guy. Was I surprised at what came out? Yes, I was.
“I would love to go public with everything, but I can’t . . . I want to stay away from it as much as possible until I have to.‘'
Meanwhile, he’s hoping MLB and the Players Association can come to an agreement so there will be some baseball this summer. But like everyone, Cora is wondering how rigorous safety protocols can be enforced.
“I read part of it, how they’re proposing to do it,” he said. “It’s almost impossible. I try to imagine myself managing with conditions like that and it’s almost impossible to ask. Put me in the corner, don’t talk to players. Have players in the stands. This isn’t soccer. It isn’t basketball. It’s going to be tough.‘'