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With latest cheating allegations, Alex Cora’s problems suddenly are multiplying

Even before he can make out a lineup card this season, Alex Cora will have to answer to MLB on other matters.file/chris o’meara/Associated Press

Alex Cora already had plenty on his baseball plate for the upcoming season, entering Year 3 as Red Sox manager under a new boss, with new financial constraints, with trade rumors circling around his best player and an ongoing retirement conundrum enveloping a favorite one, all of it with a win-or-bust fan base in Boston.

All of that he’s used to; managing in this game requires the ability to juggle competing viewpoints, and to bridge yourself safely from the locker room to the front office while satisfying both sides. It’s a skill set the 44-year-old Cora has shown himself adept at using, his two years in Boston routinely underscored by compliments about his superior communication skills.


But make no mistake, Cora’s reputation as a baseball man is clearly on the line now, with no easy way of explaining his way out of it.

As Major League Baseball nears the conclusion of an investigation into one sign-stealing scheme in Houston and begins to dig into another in Boston, Cora’s role cannot be ignored. He is the common denominator, as the bench coach in Houston in 2017 and manager of the Red Sox in 2018. Those squads winning the World Series in dominating fashion are two of Cora’s greatest career accomplishments, the highest of highs in a run that also saw him oversee the Puerto Rican national team in a period of great success.

His era of good feeling is decidedly over.

Alex Cora has had a rough stretch lately, one that includes new accusations of sign-stealing.Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

If Cora is found to have been heavily involved in the Astros’ antics, which in-depth reporting by The Athletic contends he was, he would likely face some punishment from MLB alongside those he worked with in Houston. If that is then coupled with evidence of similar wrongdoing in Boston, Cora could be looking at significant punishment, including a lengthy suspension.


Related: MLB to investigate allegations that Red Sox illegally stole signs

For someone who prided himself on building his playing career from the streets of Puerto Rico through hard work and smarts, and turned that into a growing reputation as a manager, it would be a tough badge of disgrace to wear.

But it would be deserved, particularly because the Red Sox should be baseball’s most fastidious rule-following team, something they promised to be only a few short years ago. When they were fined in 2017 for improperly using an Apple Watch to convey signs to hitters, the powers that be made it clear the relatively light punishment was a warning, noting in statements at the time that they “had received absolute assurances from the Red Sox that there will be no future violations of this type.”

No wonder MLB’s statement Tuesday in response to the latest Athletic story was so strongly worded: “The Commissioner made clear in a September 15, 2017, memorandum to clubs how seriously he would take any future violation of the regulations regarding use of electronic equipment or the inappropriate use of the video replay room. Given these allegations, MLB will commence an investigation into this matter.”

Cora cannot escape his place in the center of that inquiry.

Dan Shaughnessy: If charges are true, MLB must come down hard on Red Sox

None of it will make his baseball job easier, and this year, the job does not look easy.


Cora heads into the season under new baseball boss Chaim Bloom, who was hired to replace the fired Dave Dombrowski. It was Dombrowski who hired Cora, and their old school/new age pairing was lauded as the perfect combination for those 2018 Sox, a team that won 108 regular-season games and romped through the playoffs.

If the Red Sox get off to a slow start and the accusations mount against Alex Cora, could Chaim Bloom move on from the manager?Elise Amendola/Associated Press

Though Cora professed nothing but excitement about working with Bloom when speaking at Bloom’s introductory news conference, there is no ignoring the fact that he wasn’t Bloom’s choice as manager. And if Bloom is really worth his salt as a chief baseball officer, you know he has a list somewhere of guys he sees as management material. And remember, Bloom was not here in 2018, so he is safely afield from this odious chapter.

But Bloom is here to get the Red Sox payroll under tight control, and is looking to trim as much as $20 million of talent off the current roster (possibly starting with Mookie Betts). For two years, Cora pretty much knew his lineup every day. This year? From the Betts uncertainty to the Dustin Pedroia saga, who knows?

Pedroia is back to try another post-injury comeback, and even if everyone following the Red Sox believes he’s almost certainly not an everyday second baseman, the proud veteran might not be so quick to agree. That delicate situation will be Cora’s to massage, since the team was unable to find or uninterested in finding some mutual solution over the winter.


It’s a lot to deal with, for baseball, for the Sox, and when you get down to it, for Cora. The charmed portion of his Red Sox life is over.

Tara Sullivan is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at tara.sullivan@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @Globe_Tara.