“No comments,” platitudes, hyperbole, filler, and keeping the faith. What else did you expect from an unexpected Red Sox press conference about a hastily-removed disgraced now-former manager?
This afternoon, the Red Sox’ John Henry, Tom Werner, Sam Kennedy, and Chaim Bloom faced the music, or rather, the Boston media, to discuss the events of the past week. Only there wasn’t much they could discuss. Until MLB’s investigation into electronic sign-stealing in 2018 is complete, the Sox are unable to comment or answer most of the media’s burning questions. And yet, to not hold a presser at all would have been worse; it would have looked cowardly, an omission of guilt, an attempt to hide behind Fenway’s walls. It would not be the way to move forward. And the Red Sox have made it clear from their actions (parting with Cora) and words (“turning the page”) that they intend to move forward as quickly as possible.
It didn’t start off well: John Henry reminded everyone why he rarely verbally represents his franchise by dropping this soundbite:
“[Alex Cora] has consistently put the interests of the club ahead of his own.”
Well, he cheated, and created a huge mess, and then departed and left said mess to be cleaned up by everyone else. This is behavior that is inherently not in the best interest of the club. The best interest of the club would have been for him to not cheat and simply manage his team. Yes, he was a manager beloved by his players, and he connected with them well. And technically, yes, he risked his career to win a championship in Boston, which could be viewed as putting the interests of the club ahead of his own. But that is a debate for another time.
Alex Cora is guilty, though exactly what he is guilty of remains to be announced by the second MLB investigation. But Tom Werner stated, “He admitted that what he did was wrong.” Kennedy called him “an incredibly talented manager,” and said that he “handled himself with class, with dignity,” and “expressed remorse and apologized to us.”
Despite the scandal and dishonesty, Henry, Werner, and Kennedy all expressed a lot of affection for Cora. Maybe a little too saccharine for public consumption, when everyone is still reeling from this fallout. But what did you expect? Most people are not perfect, make mistakes and bad decisions, and yet they are still loved. Alex Cora is no different than most of us. Of course, it is frustrating to hear ownership and leadership go a bit overboard praising him when most of us are upset with him, but they were never going to stand up in front of the media and lambast and condemn him.
In this 45-minute presser, I quickly lost count of how many times the foursome had to reiterate that they could not comment on an ongoing investigation, how many times they asked everyone to withhold judgement, and how many times they expressed confidence in the team and its ability to compete in the division in 2020.
But there were notable departures from ‘No Comment,’ including Kennedy saying “Absolutely yes,” when asked if he still thought the Red Sox beat the Dodgers fair-and-square to win the 2018 championship, and ownership reiterated that after the 2017 Apple Watch incident, they took electronic sign-stealing very seriously; Werner called Cora’s behavior “unacceptable.” When asked if it had been discussed with Cora at the time of his hiring, Kennedy gave a vague, but firm response: “The organization was well-aware of the rules, and communicated them to our uniformed staff and front office personnel.” Midway through the presser, Henry dangled a suggestive, “It’s unfortunate that we can’t comment,” a tantalizingly-loaded statement, to be sure.
“The organization was well-aware of the rules, and communicated them to our uniformed staff and front office personnel.”Sam Kennedy, President of the Boston Red Sox
Chaim Bloom, who only joined the front office in November, was as transparent as he could be under the circumstances about the work to be done. He explained that the managerial search has only just begun, which makes sense, since the Red Sox have only been without a manager for about twenty hours now. Candidates include members of the current coaching staff, as well as outside options, and he did not rule out hiring an interim manager. Of course, the Red Sox have now had five managers in the last 17 years, so every manager who accepts this high-stress job is de-facto considered interim. He also stressed that the search for a new manager would not distract from his focus on the roster, with players like Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr.’s contracts and futures in question.
Overall, the press conference was exactly as expected. What did you think they would do? Throw Cora under the bus? Fire the entire coaching staff? Hire Jason Varitek on the spot? It’s been less than 24 hours since Cora’s “mutual” departure was announced, and not even 48 hours since Jim Crane fired Jeff Luhnow and A.J. Hinch. The Red Sox have a lot of work to do. All there is to do now is wait and see if they do it well.
Photo: Guerin Austin