The question, such as it was — intended to break an awkward silence and get things rolling — probably won’t earn me a congratulatory phone call from Bob Woodward:
“Alex, just how you feel, obviously your pitchers took a beating these last couple of days.”
That awkwardly phrased volley from me to Alex Cora, then the Red Sox manager, occurred last June 30 at London Stadium. Cora’s response — specifically his shout-out to his good pal and, it turns out, 2017 Astros co-conspirator Carlos Beltran, then a Yankees adviser — is getting far more attention right now than it did back then.
I wrote right then and there about Cora’s salute to Beltran, and at the time, it seemed like a funny inside joke. Some love for his buddy. And nothing more.
Was it far more, as per Cora’s much-discussed wink when he first brings up Beltran’s name? I really don’t think so. Yet Cora’s unsolicited mention of Beltran’s ability to steal signs underlines how vital a part of the game Cora viewed this, and how much he valued Beltran’s skills in this area — and how much, we know now, they worked together, breaking rules on those 2017 Astros, Cora as the bench coach and Beltran as the retiring player. Cora is now out of work, and Beltran’s status as the recently hired Mets manager stands in limbo.
Here’s video of the Alex Cora soundbite we just played on @WFANmornings. This was following the Yankees’ sweep of Boston in the 2019 London Series. Check out the wink after he brings up Carlos Beltran’s name around :27 and unprovoked usage of the word “devices.” (h/t @Pacmangrig) pic.twitter.com/HgkglIoB7O
— Chris Lopresti (@CLoprestiWFAN) January 15, 2020
Cora went out of his way that day, first publicly and then privately, to not accuse Beltran of instituting anything illegal into the Yankees’ universe. First, in this very answer, Cora said, “I’m not saying devices, all that stuff.” While we sure as heck didn’t know about the trash-can system instituted by the 2017 Astros when Major League Baseball made its European debut, we did know about the Apple Watch the Red Sox had used that same season, which set into motion Rob Manfred’s memorandum that set into motion the massive penalties against the Astros this past week.
Moreover, after Cora concluded this news conference, he sought me out to ensure I understood he wasn’t implying that Beltran was doing anything wrong.
So this wasn’t quite the equivalent of Walter White shooting down Hank’s theory that Gale Boetticher was Heisenberg, thereby putting himself in more peril, in “Breaking Bad.” Though it proved very telling, no doubt, that Cora went in this direction off such a general, innocuous question/statement. Telling enough that a rather unmemorable exchange, in the moment, suddenly has become quite memorable.
Let’s catch up on Pop Quiz Questions:
From Paul Graziano of Baltimore: A 1964 episode of “The Donna Reed Show” featured three future Baseball Hall of Famers. Two were Leo Durocher and Willie Mays. Name the third.
From Alan Letzt of Philomont, Va.: Name the former Yankees pitcher who played guitar for a rock group called Stickfigure.
If you want enough Pop Quiz material to last a thousand lifetimes, read the book “From Spring Training to Screen Test: Baseball Players Turned Actors,” compiled by my friend Rob Edelman and some of his pals from SABR.
Your Pop Quiz Answers:
If you have a tidbit that connects baseball to popular culture, please send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.