The Red Sox parted ways with Alex Cora on Tuesday night, deciding it was untenable for the popular manager to continue given his central role in baseball’s cheating scandal.
A day after Major League Baseball made it clear that he faced a significant suspension, and less than 15 months after winning the World Series in his record-setting rookie season as manager, Cora left a job he treasured in disgrace.
“This is a special place. There is nothing like it in all of baseball, and I will miss it dearly,” he said in a statement.
Cora, 44, led the Red Sox to the championship in 2018, quickly earning the trust of his players and the confidence of ownership. Now the organization is starting over again.
“This is a sad day for us. Alex is a special person and a beloved member of the Red Sox,” the team said in a statement attributed to principal owner John Henry (who also owns the Globe), chairman Tom Werner, and president Sam Kennedy. “We are grateful for his impact on our franchise. We will miss his passion, his energy, and his significant contributions to the communities of New England and Puerto Rico.”
The Sox met throughout the day on Tuesday to discuss the ramifications of a nine-page report issued by Commissioner Rob Manfred on Monday that pinpointed Cora as arranging for players to steal signs via video monitors while he was bench coach of the Houston Astros in 2017.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch were suspended for a year and then fired by the team. Manfred withheld announcing a punishment for Cora until baseball completed an investigation into the 2018 Red Sox for similar violations.
The Red Sox acted a day later.
“We collectively decided that it would not be possible for Alex to effectively lead the club going forward,” their statement said.
Said Cora: “We agreed today that parting ways was the best thing for the organization. I do not want to be a distraction to the Red Sox as they move forward.
“My two years as manager were the best years of my life. It was an honor to manage these teams and help bring a World Series championship back to Boston. I will forever be indebted to the organization and the fans who supported me as a player, a manager, and in my efforts to help Puerto Rico.”
In November, as MLB launched its investigation of the Astros, Red Sox officials did not believe Cora would be in any danger.
But when the results of the investigation were revealed Monday, Cora was found to have broken rules that prohibit using video to decode signs given by a catcher to the pitcher.
The Astros signaled to hitters what kind of pitch was coming by banging on a garbage can.
“Through his active participation [Cora] implicitly condoned the players’ conduct,” the report said.
The 2018 Red Sox were accused of using a similar system, watching video then signaling that information to a batter via runners on base. MLB is also investigating that system.
Cora said he fully cooperated in the MLB investigation and had started preparing as usual for the upcoming season.
“The goal is to win the World Series,” he said in December. “Nothing has changed.”
Now chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, who has been on the job for 11 weeks, must find a new manager before the start of spring training on Feb. 12.
The next manager will the team’s fourth since Terry Francona was fired after the 2011 season.
Unless he is tainted by the investigation into the 2018 team, bench coach Ron Roenicke is a clear option if the Sox are seeking an interim replacement before doing a full search after the season.
Roenicke managed the Milwaukee Brewers from 2011-15 and knows the Sox well after two years on Cora’s staff.
Third base coach Carlos Febles could be considered along with former team captain Jason Varitek, a special assistant and occasional on-field coach. Varitek has long aspired to manage.
Dustin Pedroia, who has played only nine games the last two seasons because of an injured left knee, remains under contract and could conceivably be a player-manager. But he has demonstrated little interest in managing or even coaching.
If the Red Sox look outside the organization, Eduardo Perez has many of the same qualities that made Cora an attractive candidate when he was hired.
Now an ESPN and MLB Network Radio analyst after playing 13 years in the majors, Perez has never managed at the highest level but has experience as a coach and winter league manager. Perez also has a deep knowledge and appreciation for analytics and speaks Spanish.
Perez, 50, is the son of Hall of Famer Tony Perez, who played for the Sox from 1980-82.
New Hampshire native Sam Fuld would be another intriguing candidate.
Fuld, 38, played eight seasons in the majors then joined the Philadelphia Phillies in 2017 as their major league player information coordinator, a new position.
Fuld interviewed to be manager of the Toronto Blue Jays after the 2018 season but withdrew from consideration. He has since been at least loosely tied to managerial searches conducted by the Cubs, Giants, Mets, Phillies, and Pirates.
Fuld also has a connection to Bloom, having played for the Tampa Bay Rays from 2011-13. Bloom was the team’s director of baseball operations at that time.
Former Sox player Mike Lowell, even-keeled and smart, would be an option if he wants the job.
Four successful veteran managers — Dusty Baker, Bruce Bochy, Mike Scioscia, and Buck Showalter — are available.
But Bloom’s data-driven approach would not seem to be a good fit with their more traditional methods.
Former Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Angels manager Brad Ausmus, a Connecticut native who graduated from Dartmouth, is a better mesh of styles.
But he has been fired twice in the last three seasons.
Any replacement will be challenged given Cora’s success in Boston and his close relationship with the players.