Since his return from a yearlong suspension for his role in the Astros’ 2017 sign-stealing scandal, Red Sox manager Alex Cora has been contrite in discussing his role in the scandal while also repeatedly acknowledging that he must live with the consequences of what he has described as a terrible mistake.
Yet Cora’s stance since his return stands in marked contrast to what author Evan Drellich, in a book being released Feb. 14, portrays as his brazenness before the scandal swept through the sport.
In “Winning Fixes Everything: How Baseball’s Brightest Minds Created Sports’ Biggest Mess,” Drellich offers previously unreported depth and detail about both the Astros’ sign-stealing scheme and the cultural rot inside the organization that served as the backdrop.
The entanglements of the Red Sox and Cora — who as Astros bench coach played a central role in the wrongdoing — rank among the most revelatory anecdotes, particularly a suggestion that Cora boasted to the Red Sox about what he’d done in Houston.
“Around their new team, Cora and Craig Bjornson — the former Astros bullpen coach who took the same role in Boston — would occasionally talk about the Astros’ sign-stealing from 2017, even brag, sometimes in a late-night setting,” Drellich wrote.
“ ‘Especially when they started drinking,’ a member of the Red Sox said. ‘We stole that [expletive] World Series,’ Cora would say, and his comments would shock some people.
“ ‘We knew the Astros did [steal signs],’ another member of the Red Sox said, ‘because Alex Cora told us. He said that when they played the Dodgers, “We already knew what everybody was throwing before we even got on base. We didn’t have to get on base.” And everybody was like, “What the hell does that mean?” ’ ”
Cora, reached by the Globe in Puerto Rico, declined comment on the book’s newly reported details.
When rehiring Cora after the 2020 season, the Red Sox were prepared for the possibility that future reporting on the scandal could reflect poorly on Cora and, by extension, the organization. According to multiple major league sources, the new details reported in the book will not affect the team’s commitment to Cora as manager.
Drellich is a former beat reporter for the Astros (Houston Chronicle) and Red Sox (MassLive, Boston Herald, and NBC Sports Boston) who now works for The Athletic; he broke the initial story about the Astros’ sign-stealing scheme.
Cora won a ring with that team, then became Red Sox manager in 2018 and guided them to victory in the World Series. Those Red Sox were investigated for an electronic sign-stealing scandal for which they avoided sweeping penalties.
In January 2020, Cora parted ways with the Red Sox after an investigation by Major League Baseball identified him as the ringleader of the Astros’ trash-can-banging tactics. He was ultimately suspended by MLB for the 2020 season for his role in the Astros scandal (with no further punishment for his role in the Sox’ use of a replay monitor in 2018 to steal sign-sequence information), then rehired by the Red Sox in November 2020.
“There are some books coming out that are going to talk about it. It’s not going to go away,” Cora said in March 2021, his first spring back with the Red Sox. “I’m ready for it. This is part of the process. I’m not one who hides from making mistakes or admitting mistakes. I’ve been doing that. I’ve been saying all along, this is something that’s going to follow me the rest of my career.
“Like I said when I [interviewed to be rehired] in Puerto Rico, I’m ready for it. If I wasn’t ready to talk to you guys about this, I’d be home right now playing with the kids and being with the family. But I’m ready. It’s part of it. It’s something that, it happened. I have to live with it.”
“Winning Fixes Everything” has several passages of note to Red Sox fans:
▪ Drellich adds unflattering color to a previously reported confrontation between Cora and Astros manager A.J. Hinch on a Houston team flight on Aug. 31, 2017. The rant, which lasted about 10 minutes, occurred in front of most of the team.
“[Cora] sounded very aggressive, like, if you tried to break it up, you’re going to get hit in the face, you’re going to get punched in the face,” a witness told Drellich. Said another: “Holy crap, I’m going to watch our manager deck our bench coach.”
“I was not on the trip where things blew up, but I talked with a lot of people that were,” an Astros front office member said. “And it seemed like Cora was sort of being a drunk [expletive] and then A.J. had some pent-up rage and just let it rip.”
▪ During the 2018 World Series, the Red Sox and Dodgers were both suspicious that their opponent was using video to steal signs.
“The Dodgers have always been the thing that bothers me the most,” an unidentified member of the Red Sox told Drellich. “Because they’re the biggest cheaters in the whole [expletive] industry. … They were doing it against us in the ’18 World Series. They got caught by Major League Baseball and Major League Baseball did nothing.”
A Red Sox source relayed a story to Drellich about the Dodgers’ Joc Pederson running into the visiting video area at Fenway, where teammate Chase Utley and an MLB official were situated.
“Hey, did you get his signs yet?” Pederson is said to have asked. “And they’re just like, ‘[Expletive] — [expletive] idiot,’ ” the Red Sox source said of the league official’s response, according to Drellich’s reporting. “Apparently, nothing is done by MLB except they say, ‘Stop doing that [expletive], don’t do that [expletive].’ Then they go over to the Red Sox clubhouse to [video operator J.T. Watkins], and they’re like proactively scolding him, making sure he doesn’t do that. “And he turns to the guy and says, ‘Oh, you caught Chase Utley doing [expletive]?’ ”
▪ Watkins, the team’s video replay coordinator, was the only member of the Red Sox organization punished by MLB for the 2018 sign-stealing improprieties. Watkins was suspended for the 2020 season; he was recently hired by the Dodgers as part of their game-planning staff. He was supposed to be unpaid during the ban, but per Drellich was “said to have some money come his way” from Red Sox players.
“One player spoke up [during a phone call with Red Sox staff and players] and was like, ‘Guys, we gotta take care of J.T. financially,’ ” a person with knowledge of the call said. “ ’We know what he did for us, so it’s on us to take care of him.’ ” According to one of Drellich’s sources, “[Watkins] made more money than ever that year with the players helping him out.”
During the investigation, the commissioner’s office was said to have told Watkins which players told investigators he was guilty.
“There’s still some guys in this league that are hated by other Red Sox people,” a Sox source told Drellich. “It created some problems in the clubhouse. Because J.T. [expletive] confronted people about it.”
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