Xander Bogaerts says Red Sox 2018 title not tainted by allegations

BOSTON -- Red Sox All-Star Xander Bogaerts, addressing the sign-stealing scandal that cost Boston manager Alex Cora his job, said Thursday that he doesn't believe MLB's investigation of the team's alleged practices in 2018 taints their World Series title.

"Nah, absolutely not," Bogaerts said. "We came to the park every day, we worked hard, we practiced hard, worked as teammates and had each other's back. We had a great coaching staff along with that. Playing at home during the first games of the World Series, those are really, really huge and we took advantage of that right away and we had a great run."

Bogaerts was the first member of the championship team to address allegations that the Red Sox used their video room to illegally steal signs in 2018, which MLB is now investigating. This follows the investigation of the 2017 Houston Astros using a different scheme to illegally steal signs, which implicated Cora -- then the Astros bench coach -- and resulted in the Red Sox parting ways with their manager on Tuesday.

Bogaerts, who's in town to accept the Red Sox MVP award at the Boston Baseball Writers Dinner, said he's seen Cora since the news broke that he would not be returning in 2020 but remained mum on the details of their conversation.

"I've talked to him a couple of times," Bogaerts said. "It's just sad that he won't be our manager and just the person that he was to us. There can't be no person in that clubhouse that has an issue or has something bad to say about him."

Bogaerts said he has not spoken to anyone from MLB about the investigation into the team, and declined to comment on the process.

"MLB is going into that," Bogaerts said. "They're busy doing their investigation. For me, 2018 was a special year."

Despite Houston eliminating Boston in the first round of the 2017 playoffs, Bogaerts gave credit to the Astros and did not play down Houston's World Series title. When asked about MLB's findings on the Astros' sign-stealing tactics, Bogaerts said he had never noticed anything out of the ordinary when playing games in Houston.

"They had a good team, man," Bogaerts said. "They had a great team that year. Obviously we had a couple of guys that went down with injuries. ... Playing in that park is not easy and those guys had a great team."

Bogaerts said the first time he heard about the Astros using cameras, monitors and trash cans to steal and communicate signs was when the initial report dropped, adding that he had never seen any of that while playing in Houston.

"I had no idea," Bogaerts said. "I'm going to be honest, that place is so loud."

Cora and Bogaerts maintained a close manager-player relationship. The Red Sox shortstop credits his former skipper as a major reason he took a step forward in 2019, putting together a career year, hitting .309/.384/.555 with 33 homers and 117 RBIs and finishing fifth in voting for the American League MVP award. Bogaerts said he'll miss working with Cora every day.

"He helped me get to the next level that I was trying to reach. I'm very thankful for him," Bogaerts said. "Always was a fan of him as a person, especially when he was doing the TV stuff. Even when he was in Houston, seeing him on the field, he's such a smart baseball guy. When he came over here, he pushed all of us to heights that we obviously wanted to reach."

Bogaerts said it was "really strange, honestly" to not have a manager with less than a month before pitchers and catchers report to spring training. When asked what qualities he wants in the next Red Sox manager, Bogaerts responded with his old skipper still on his mind.

"Someone like him," Bogaerts said. "The first he came here and we won and everything came so easy. Last year, we had some rough stretches, but we ended the season over .500. Obviously that's not where we wanted to be, but he did a great job with us man, and it's hard managing 25 guys and keeping them all on the same page and not letting that break apart is something not easy to do."