In the wake of the Houston Astros going above and beyond the one-year suspensions handed down by Major League Baseball following an investigation into the team stealing signs during the 2017 season and making the decision to fire manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow, the Boston Red Sox followed suit and preemptively parted ways with manager Alex Cora.
Cora, the bench coach for the Astros in 2017, was named extensively in MLB’s nine-page report into Houston’s sign-stealing system and is also the subject of an ongoing investigation into Boston stealing signs in 2018.
Though they weren’t mandated by the league, the firings of Hinch, Luhnow and Cora make sense from an organizational standpoint given the optics of their connections to the cheating scandal(s).
But, there’s a fourth big name in commissioner Rob Manfred’s sign-stealing report and, for now at least, he still has a job managing the New York Mets.
Carlos Beltran, who had 509 plate appearances for the Astros during the 2017 season as a utility man, is the only player who is named in Manfred’s report. Here’s what it says about him: “Approximately two months into the 2017 season, a group of players, including Carlos Beltrán, discussed that the team could improve on decoding opposing teams’ signs and communicating the signs to the batter.”
The report goes on to say that, with the exception of Cora’s involvement, the new scheme to steal signs — which involved video equipment and banging on garbage cans to communicate with batters at the plate — was “player-driven.”
Reading between the lines, that all seems to indicate the “player-driven” sign-stealing system was masterminded by one player: Beltran.
As the report also states, no players were disciplined for their involvement in the scandal because the league wanted to focus on penalizing high-level team officials, hence the suspensions of Hinch and Luhnow.
But Beltran is no longer a player and he wasn’t one last year, either, when he worked as a senior advisor to New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman.
And, while he had that role, it certainly sounds like he may have been encouraging the same sort of illegal activity he was engaging in with Houston.
Consider this quote from Cora about Beltran after the Yankees and Red Sox played a two-game series in London last year, in which saw New York scored 29 runs on 32 hits.
“I was joking with somebody that their biggest free-agent acquisition is Carlos Beltran,” Cora said. “I know how he works. He’s helped them a lot. They’re very into details, and we have to clean our details. It was eye-opening, the last two days, from top to bottom. I’m not saying devices, all that stuff. It’s just stuff that the game will dictate. And we’ll scream at people, and it’s right there.”
Though it kind of sounded like gibberish at the time, that remark now seems telling in the wake of the findings of MLB’s report and certainly makes it seem as if Beltran’s bag of sign-stealing tricks went with him to New York the same way Cora’s likely went with him to Boston.
Therefore, shouldn’t their professional fates be the same?
In reality, though they had different roles in 2017 with the Astros, Beltran, 42, Cora, 44, and Hinch, 45, were basically peers. After that year, they all went on to occupy or maintain high-level positions, Hinch with the Astros, Cora with the Red Sox and Beltran with the Yankees and Mets.
Now, in the wake of MLB’s report, Hinch is out in Houston and Cora is out in Boston.
For consistency’s sake, the third strike from the report should be thrown in New York and Beltran should be out with the Mets.