Last offseason it looked like the biggest story in baseball in 2020 would revolve around fallout from the Astros sign stealing scandal. It was the talk of Cubs Convention (you know, when we could gather in person and weren’t talking about Marquee Sports Network). In fact, I remember being at a Cubs Convention after party when Rotowear released this shirt to commemorate some not great comments by Alex Bregman at Astros Fan Fest, which happened to be scheduled the same weekend. I obviously ordered one immediately.
We were all on the edge of our seats wondering what this meant for the Mets new manager Carlos Beltrán and former Red Sox manager Alex Cora, whose actions were at the heart of the sign stealing scandal. It didn’t take long for either of them to step down or be dismissed from from their positions.
But there were also underlying questions about how baseball front offices would react once the year-long suspensions for former Astros Manager AJ Hinch and former General Manager Jeff Luhnow were served. Questions that would obviously impact Cora and Beltrán as well. After all, these weren’t just bit players in MLB. Luhnow and Hinch orchestrated a masterful rebuild in Houston that resulted in the Astros first World Series Championship in franchise history. Cora won a ring with the Astros in 2017 and the Red Sox in 2018. Beltrán is certainly going to the Hall of Fame — or at least was, before the cheating scandal — and the Mets were not the only team interested in him as a managerial candidate.
All of that outrage was an impeachment, a pandemic, a summer of protests, and the demolition of most of the minor leagues ago, so the Tigers decided to try their luck and just hire AJ Hinch as their next manager basically as soon as his suspension ended.
I’ve spent a while on Twitter trying to gauge the reaction, and this looks like a move that will work out well for the Tigers. Aside from some sniping from Charlie Sheen, the vast majority of the traffic appears more outraged that the White Sox hired Tony La Russa instead of Hinch:
The White Sox were viewed by many to have the most desirable managerial opening and likely had their pick of AJ Hinch or Alex Cora. Instead, they hired 76-year-old Tony La Russa. A lot of people across baseball are absolutely baffled.— Robert Murray (@ByRobertMurray) October 29, 2020
And this poll isn’t exactly close:
Which was the better managerial hire?— David Laurila (@DavidLaurilaQA) October 30, 2020
Obviously there are some low-hanging trashcan jokes, but there appears to be a lot more good will in the league for Hinch:
Good for AJ Hinch! Detroit is getting an exceptional manager. Wish he was still with the Astros TBH pic.twitter.com/QW6W8t0hv8— Michael Schwab (@michaelschwab13) October 30, 2020
That good will seems to open the door to Cora and/or Beltrán getting another chance to manage as well. It’s worth noting that the Tigers interviewed Alex Cora for their opening and there have been persistent rumors since Ron Roenicke was let go as the Red Sox manager that there might be a reunion in store for Cora and Boston.
Don’t get me wrong, last January when news broke about the scandal and suspensions it seemed like the blowback for hiring Cora would be more severe than hiring Hinch, as this segment with Mark Teixeira makes clear:
But most of that outrage came from Yankees fans. If I’m being honest even that seems to have died down as the Tigers interviewed Hinch and Cora and ultimately hired Hinch today. I have to wonder if there would be any meaningful PR blowback to a Red Sox reunion for Cora. Boston isn’t exactly a city that care what New York thinks, and it seems pretty obvious that whatever capacity fans have for outrage over sign stealing scandals in baseball has been tapped out by life in 2020.
Baseball is a business that cares about wins, results and money (not necessarily in that order). It always seemed unlikely that people who have demonstrated an ability to master the game at the highest level would be blacklisted from baseball indefinitely once their suspensions were over. Hinch’s contract opens the door for Cora, Beltrán, and yes, even Luhnow, to re-emerge in MLB this offseason. If today is any indication, any blowback the teams that hire them get will barely crack the current news cycle.