Red Sox executives briefly considered sticking with Alex Cora as their manager after abruptly learning on Monday that he was at the center of the Houston Astros cheating scandal. But after a day of meetings, during which even Cora acknowledged he couldn’t continue, the group decided it had no choice but to make a swift change.
“While it was difficult personally for a lot of people, professionally it was ultimately an easy decision for the Red Sox and for Alex,” team president Sam Kennedy said Wednesday. “Alex came to the conclusion that he could not effectively lead the organization.”
Cora was relieved of his duties on Tuesday night in what was termed a mutual parting of the ways. A day later, the Sox addressed the crisis and how they plan to recover during a 45-minute news conference at Fenway Park that was far more of a testimonial to Cora, who was not present, than a condemnation.
“We’re going to miss just about everything [about him],” principal owner John Henry said. “He was a tremendous manager for us, on all levels.”
The Red Sox also appeared confident that Major League Baseball’s investigation into any actions taken by their 2018 team will not be as damning as what was revealed about Cora’s activities with the 2017 Houston Astros and their system of stealing signs from opponents using a video feed.
“We ask our fans to reserve judgment on any conclusions that they may reach until the commissioner’s investigation is over,” team chairman Tom Werner said.
It was a recurring theme. Henry, Werner, Kennedy, and chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom mentioned the idea of reserving judgment five times while sitting on a stage in the same function room where Cora was introduced as manager in 2017.
“It’s unfortunate that we can’t comment,” said Henry, who also owns the Globe. “But we don’t have all the facts ourselves. We were surprised at what we learned in the previous report.”
The Sox were accused of using video to steal signs in 2017 and were hit with a small fine. All teams were then warned before the 2018 season that further violations would be more severely punished.
“The organization is well aware of the rules and communicated those to our uniform personnel and our front office staff,” Kennedy said.
Said Henry: “We took a number of steps to assure that we didn’t have a problem going forward. I know it’s asking a lot, but it makes a lot of sense at this point to wait until the report comes out to be able to address any of these issues.”
Henry was then asked if the Red Sox beat the Dodgers without cheating in the 2018 World Series.
“Absolutely,” he said.
“Absolutely, yes,” Kennedy quickly added.
But there was an awkward five-second pause when the quartet was asked if Cora deserved a second chance to manage in the major leagues.
“I think Alex is an incredibly talented manager and accomplished great things with us,” Kennedy said. “He’s expressed remorse, apologized to us for the embarrassment that this caused.
“I think he’ll go through a process of rehabilitation and we’ll see what happens. It would be hard to speculate, but he is an extreme talent.”
When asked what qualities he would prioritize in hiring a new manager, Bloom said Cora was a good template.
“You look around the league and you look at many successful managers and certainly the one we just had here had a great deal of success,” Bloom said.
The Sox do not yet have a list of candidates. Bloom said members of the current coaching staff will be considered and that the Sox could opt for an interim manager.
“The search has not started yet. We were focused on coming to the proper resolution with Alex,” he said.
The Red Sox start spring training on Feb. 12, leaving Bloom and his staff with a small window to identify and evaluate candidates before selecting a new manager. There is no specific timetable beyond wanting somebody in place for the start of workouts.
“There’s no question it’s an unusual time to be doing a managerial search,” Bloom said.
Bloom, who was hired in October, said he has been impressed with bench coach Ron Roenicke and special assistant Jason Varitek, the former team captain and two-time World Series champion. But he did not yet know if they would be considered.
The Astros are seeking a new manager after A.J. Hinch was suspended by Major League Baseball and then fired by the team for not stopping his players from cheating in 2017. New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran, a former Astros player implicated in the scandal, also could be let go.
“We’ve just got to do what’s right for us. The reason to make this happen as quickly as possible has nothing to do with that we might be competing against someone,” Bloom said. “We don’t want to prioritize speed over doing what’s right.”