Former Red Sox manager Alex Cora offered no excuses for his involvement in the Astros’ sign-stealing scheme, but said he did not act alone. “And let me be very clear that I am not denying my responsibility, because we were all responsible.” Charles Krupa/Associated Press

In January, when it looked like Alex Cora was going to be out of baseball for years (at least two) because of cheating scandals, I wrote that the Red Sox and Cora must part ways. Shortly after I filed the column, Boston and Cora did exactly that – announcing his “resignation” as the team’s manager.

“He had to go,” was the final line of my column.

Now?

He should come back.

Cora, 44, is a proven big league, big-market manager. It makes (almost) complete sense to rehire him.

There is only one problem: that scarlet letter C on Cora’s forehead – cheater. He was a convicted by the MLB court in January for his role in the Houston Astros’ 2017 electronic sign-stealing scandal. Cora was Houston’s bench coach. MLB levied penalties, including one-season suspensions for Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch, who were then fired.

In MLB’s report, Cora was identified as the mastermind, along with Carlos Beltran, of Houston’s system. Cora is mentioned five times before there is any word of Hinch. MLB announced that its punishment of Cora would wait until after another investigation of an alleged, similar-type cheating scandal by the Red Sox in 2018, when Cora was Boston’s manager.

It did not look good for Cora. With him appearing to face a suspension (think one season for his Astros sins, and at least one more for the Red Sox), Boston let Cora go.

But a funny thing about that Red Sox investigation, which was concluded in April – Cora was not blamed for the team’s wrongdoings. The investigation determined that he was not to blame for the team’s improper use of video replays, and the only punishments were the loss of a second-round pick and the suspension of a video operator.

All of a sudden, Cora doesn’t appear so dirty; still guilty (he got his one-season suspension for his Astros’ role), but to a lesser degree. Cora later said he and Beltran were scapegoats in Houston.

“If there is one thing I am absolutely sure of, it is that it was not a two-man show,” Cora told USA Today in June. “We all did it. And let me be very clear that I am not denying my responsibility, because we were all responsible.”

It was a one-year suspension, not a life sentence. After the World Series, Cora will have finished his suspension. He is already being considered for the opening in Detroit, as is Hinch.

How about the Red Sox?

Cora has served his time, and shouldn’t it be time to turn the page? Such words are not popular in these days of social media mobs, where there is no hesitancy to throw the first stone. It is a one-strike-you’re-out mentality.

Boston could stand in the face of that and rehire Cora. Of course, the Red Sox can say they condemn the cheating, but can’t they also take a stand for redemption? Must Cora be canceled for good?

Let others focus on Cora’s one negative.

The positives include baseball smarts; communication skills with players and with a demanding, big-market media; and a proven record as manager of the Red Sox.

Cora seems a natural for the job. But there are at least three reasons why that might not happen.

One, the Red Sox could think Cora’s cheating past is too much of a distraction and wish to begin with a new manager and a clean slate.

Two, Cora may be thinking the same thing and want a fresh start elsewhere.

Three, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom may want to make his own hire (and several names have surfaced, including those with connections with the Rays when Bloom worked there – Sam Fuld and Matt Quatraro). Bloom has denied he has a “my own man” mandate.

Bloom likely has a list of appealing candidates.

Alex Cora should be atop it.


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