Former Red Sox manager and Astros bench coach Alex Cora is taking responsibility for his role in the sign-stealing saga, but he isn't ready to shoulder all the blame.
Cora received a season-long suspension after the commissioner's office found he played a pivotal role in the Astros' sign-stealing scheme in 2017, the year they won the World Series. After the investigation, he lost his job with the Red Sox.
Cora, 44, told ESPN that he deserved his punishment for his role in the Astros' scheme, but he took umbrage with suggestions that he and Carlos Beltrán, the Astros' designated hitter in his final season in the majors in 2017, were the driving forces behind it.
"There has been a narrative out there of what happened. Ever since mid-November until the commissioner announced the results of the Red Sox investigation, I have read many things that are true and many others that are not," he said. "Out of this whole process, if there is one thing that I completely reject and disagree with is people within the Astros organization singling me out, particularly [former general manager] Jeff Luhnow, as if I were the sole mastermind. The commissioner's report sort of explained, in its own way, what happened. But the [Astros players] have spoken up and refuted any allegations that I was solely responsible."
He added: "If there is one thing I am absolutely sure of, it is that it was not a two-man show. We all did it. And let me be very clear that I am not denying my responsibility, because we were all responsible."
Cora has kept a low profile since the commissioner concluded his reports on the Astros and allegations that the Red Sox also had a sign-stealing operation during their 2018 title season -- when Cora was manager.
"Out of respect for the investigation, I decided to stay out of the spotlight. Talking about it wasn't going to change anything," Cora said. "I deserve my suspension and I'm paying the price for my actions. And I am not proud of what happened. We made a mistake as a group, the entire [Astros] team. What happened was something that, if you ask anyone involved, no one is proud of it. We're all at fault. Everybody. We're all responsible. Everyone who was part of the team from around mid-May until the end of the season, we are all responsible."
As for MLB suspending Red Sox video replay system operator J.T. Watkins and stripping the team of its second-round draft pick this year, Cora stated that the report "speaks for itself."
The league determined Boston's replay room was used to circumvent the rules, but without the manager's knowledge. Although Cora will be eligible to return in 2021, that's not his focus at this time.
"Right now, all I care about is my personal life and my family. This has not been an easy time for us, and it's my fault," he said. "Do I want to return to the game? Absolutely. That's why I worked so hard for so many years before being named Red Sox manager. But right now, all of that is secondary. My focus is on much more important things."
Cora, who spoke to ESPN after a charity event to provide financial support for sanitation workers in his hometown of Caguas, Puerto Rico, acknowledges that many people will continue to believe that the Astros' 2017 World Series title is tainted.
"I understand why people think that our championship is not valid, and it's our fault that they think that. I am being honest and I apologize for what happened and for the mistakes we made as a group," he said. "I understand why people are disappointed. I am disappointed in myself. At the time, one doesn't think about the consequences. It was something that kept growing and growing, and in the end, it was wrong. We made a mistake and I must pay for the consequences of my actions."