Major League Baseball imposed the long-awaited penalties on the Houston Astros on Monday following The Athletic's ground-breaking report of sign-stealing during their 2017 championship season. It's a doozy, with manager AJ Hinch receiving a one-year ban along with GM Jeff Luhnhow and the franchise receiving a $5 million fine, as well as losing first and second-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021. But the biggest punishment has yet to come.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora was implicated in the initial report as the bench coach during the time the scandal occurred. But in a nine-page report released by MLB with the announced punishments, Cora was specifically named as the only non-player who had a hand in making everything happen.
Hinch was the manager (and can be fingered as one of the main perpetrators by virtue of this all occurring under his nose), but the report notes he didn't like what his team was engaging in. Instead of using a heavy hand to stop the practice, though, he smashed the TVs used to steal the signs to make Cora and Co. replace them. Twice.
The reason Cora hasn't been disciplined? He and the Red Sox are currently under investigation for a different cheating scandal, primarily for using the replay monitors reserved for manager's challenges to steal signs. MLB wants that investigation to conclude before deciding what to do with the man who appears to be more guilty than anyone else combined.
In short, Cora is absolutely screwed. Not only was he involved in the original sign-stealing scandal, he was a ringleader. Then he left to take over his own team, brought the underhanded tactics he learned in Houston to Boston, and won another World Series.
Hinch was only guilty of standing to the side and letting this all happen, and he was suspended for a year. Cora helped the players execute the scheme, perfected it, and altered the course of the league by using it to help two teams win a World Series. He is justifiably the biggest villain in this story, and will be treated as such in short order by the league.
It'll be more than a one-year ban. How much longer depends on how the second investigation goes, and whether Cora cooperated with the investigators. He may very well lose his job before a suspension can even be handed down. But as the central figure in baseball's biggest scandal this side of the steroid era, we can only be sure that Cora will be facing a punishment unlike any we've ever seen in modern baseball.