The Boston Red Sox's decision to part ways with manager Alex Cora over a sign-stealing scandal is a blow to the Puerto Rican community locally who admired the attention and contributions he brought to his native island.
The team's management said Tuesday the move was based on the conclusion of Major League Baseball's investigation into the Houston Astro’s 2017 sign-stealing scheme — when Cora was bench coach.
Back in 2017, seeing Cora hired to lead the Red Sox was a win for the Latino community — he was the team's first manager of color and a Spanish-speaking coach who could connect with the players in their languages.
Even before taking the job as manager of the storied franchise, Cora was an advocate for Puerto Rico. One of his first requests was that the team support an aid mission to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of a devastating pair of hurricanes.
In February 2017, Cora arrived in his hometown of Caguas, Puerto Rico with several team members, nearly 10 tons of supplies and $200,000 to help Caguas fix its electrical grid. On a baseball field in Caguas, kids from a local Little League team lined up to receive baseball gear from Red Sox players including catcher Christian Vazquez, who’s also from Puerto Rico.
After Cora led the team to a World Series victory in 2018, he returned to Puerto Rico.
Jamaica Plain resident Otoniel Figueroa-Durán is also from Caguas. He remembers one of the first things Cora did after winning the Series.
"We were in the pain of the Hurricane Maria reconstruction, and he brings the [World Series] trophy [to Caguas]," Figueroa-Durán said. "The people received the team, the people received Alex Cora.”
Then there was the team’s divisive invite from President Trump to visit the White House after the World Series. Figueroa-Durán said Puerto Rico felt abandoned by Trump after Hurricane Maria, and Cora’s refusal to go the White House was met with applause from the island.
"After 4,000 folks die … the response from the president was to throw paper towels," he said, recalling Trump’s much-criticized visit to the island in the wake of the hurricane. "So Alex stood up for Puerto Rico.”
On Wednesday, the reaction of Boston's Latino community to Cora’s departure from the Red Sox ranged from feelings that he cheated and had to go, to that he shouldn't have been punished until more facts are known.
At MLB Barbershop in the South End of Boston, barber Ramon Martes said he's feeling a sense of sorrow. He’s from the Dominican Republic, but he said Cora is a compatriot all the same.
“He makes me proud because he's a Latino representing all of Latin America… not only Dominicans and Puerto Ricans,” Martes said in Spanish.
Martes said he doesn’t harbor any resentment toward Cora for the sign-stealing scandal.
"He's a very good person who knew how to do his job — Boston was not a good team [when Cora arrived in 2017], and thanks to his guidance, they gave us a championship," Martes said.
Figueroa-Durán said with all Puerto Rico has gone through in recent years — the hurricane of 2017 and the current crisis set off by earthquakes hitting the island — Cora brought a lot of joy to Puerto Rico.
He said it's a blow to see Cora fall so quickly from grace, and questioned why the end came so quickly.
"We're not saying that what [he allegedly] did … was right, because he altered the purity of baseball … but people deserve second chances, and the Boston Red Sox turned their back on Alex,” Figueroa-Durán said. "We're very disappointed with the team."
The team’s leadership — owner John Henry, CEO Sam Kennedy and chairman Tom Werner — said in a statement that they’ll miss Cora’s “passion" and his “significant contributions” to New England and to Puerto Rico.
An investigation into the 2018 Red Sox is ongoing. Sox leadership said Wednesday they don't have any information on that investigation.
In a statement, Cora said that parting was was the best thing for the organization, so he wouldn't be a distraction going forward.
"My two years as manager were the best years of my life," he said. "It was an honor to manage these teams and help bring a World Series Championship back to Boston. I will forever be indebted to the organization and the fans who supported me as a player, a manager and in my efforts to help Puerto Rico."
The audio segment includes reporting from WBUR reporter Shira Springer.
This article was originally published on January 15, 2020.
This segment aired on January 15, 2020.