Sports

DAN SHAUGHNESSY

Are fans bothered when their teams are caught cheating?

Boston, MA - 9/07/2018 - Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora embraces Houston Astros manager AJ Hinch during the team's pre game warmups. The Boston Red Sox host the Houston Astros in Game 1 of a three game series at Fenway Park. - (Barry Chin/Globe Staff), Section: Sports, Reporter: Peter Abraham, Topic: 08Red Sox-Astros, LOID:8.4.3074412130.
BARRY CHIN
Alex Cora was the bench coach for A.J. Hinch and the Astros during their championship season of 2017.

Picked-up pieces while wondering whether Malcolm Butler will tune in when the Patriots play the Eagles on Sunday.

 Are sports fans bothered when their teams are caught cheating?

The investigation into the 2017 world champion Astros — triggered by charges from a former Houston pitcher — touches fans everywhere, certainly those who root for New England teams.

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Nobody around here liked it much when the Super Bowl-winning Patriots were caught and punished in the Spygate and Deflategate scandals. We lived through years of pushback, denials, and controversy as fans in other regions tried to assign the Patriots’ stunning success to petty crimes and misdemeanors.

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Ultimately, our best defense came down to: “Sure, the Patriots do little things, but every team does little things. It is not the reason they win.’’

It was the same with the Red Sox when it was learned that Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz tested positive for PEDs during the baseline testing (no penalties, supposedly no disclosure) of 2003.

This information did not leak until 2009 and there were few who allowed it to tarnish memories of the Sox’ magical championships of 2004 and 2007. In this instance, the best New England defense was: “Our cheaters were better than the Yankees’ cheaters (A-Rod, Sheffield, Giambi, etc.),’’ so it just meant we had a level playing field. Few cared to think too hard about the uncomfortable truths.

The 2017 Red Sox were gently spanked (fines were levied) by commissioner Rob Manfred when they got caught stealing signs with Fitbits.

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Now it’s Houston’s turn to squirm.

It’s pretty clear that the Astros were dirty in 2017, and have been up to no good for quite some time. For Boston fans, the problematic part lies in the fact that Red Sox manager Alex Cora — a renowned organic sign stealer — must have been part of the Astros’ electronic signaling scam when they won in 2017.

Cora has been interviewed by MLB investigators, and has told us he’ll have no comment while the investigation unfolds. But this is a bad optic for the Red Sox and their manager. It should be noted that Houston’s veteran bullpen coach, Craig Bjornson, came to Boston with Cora after the 2017 season.

Remember the calamity when the Sox caught the Astros cheating in the middle of the 2018 American League Championship Series in Boston? Cora was less than a year removed from his job as bench coach in Houston. When the Astros were caught with the camera guy near the Sox dugout, Houston GM Jeff Luhnow was asked about Cora and said, “He worked for us last year, so clearly he knows everything that we’re doing.’’

Clearly.

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This is going to be interesting. The Astros are going to be punished. Cora may or may not be punished, but it’s going to be awkward for him. It’s impossible to believe Cora was not part of Houston’s scam. Do New Englanders care, or have we totally bought into the philosophy of, if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying?

Regarding these new allegations, I like the solution put forth by the New York Post’s Joel Sherman: Moving forward, in the best interest of baseball, Manfred should eliminate all electronics in the dugout during games. And no more visits to the clubhouse during games. Shut it all down.

 Bad ending for Grapes. Eighty-five-year-old Don Cherry got the pink slip this past week after divisive remarks aimed at immigrants. Cherry was NHL Coach of the Year with the Bruins in 1976 and was behind the bench for the infamous too many men on the ice penalty that cost the Bruins a playoff series against the Canadiens in 1979.

Cherry took the blame for that one. Not so much this time. He’s standing behind his remarks. Cherry had a long career as a commentator for “Hockey Night In Canada,’’ and a good run as Bruins coach. He played in only one NHL game — with the Bruins in the 1955 playoffs.

 Two questions that evidently will never be answered: 1. Why didn’t Butler play in the Super Bowl against the Eagles? 2. Why did Ortiz get shot in the Dominican Republic?

I am doubtful that we will ever know the real story on either. Ortiz has handled his shooting investigation the same way he handled things after he got popped for PEDs in 2003: pledge to get to the bottom of things, then go live your life while the episode fades away. Bank on the notion that nobody cares. Works every time.

 A 98.5 The Sports Hub caller asked if you would trade the Patriots’ 28-3 Super Bowl comeback against the Falcons in exchange for the Patriots beating the Giants to go 19-0 in 2007-08. If you could only have one, which would you take?

 The MIAA really should do something about boys playing on girls’ high school field hockey teams. It creates a dangerous, non-level playing field and has made a mockery of some state tournament games.

 QUIZ: Name the three baseball first-round overall picks who made it into the Hall of Fame (answer below).

 If you rip/ridicule/critique Dustin Pedroia for trying to come back from knee woes, you are being petty and unfair.

The Red Sox were happy to sign him when they made the deal. Pedroia could have bolted for more money elsewhere. He got hurt on the field. He is trying to come back. The Sox are on the hook for his salary no matter what happens. He cannot retire and forgive the money they owe him and give them relief from the luxury-tax threshold. He is going to get the money because that’s how guaranteed contracts work.

Even though Pedroia is highly unlikely to play again, do not punish him for trying to come back. He is trying to “earn” the money he is going to get anyway. How does that make him a bad guy?

 Jared Goff is borderline terrible. His $134 million contract is looking like something Dave Dombrowski would have handed out after winning the World Series. The Patriots got a huge break facing Goff instead of Drew Brees in last season’s Super Bowl.

 Underplayed story of the week is Tony La Russa leaving Boston to go to the Angels. What happened? Is he upset about the way Dombrowski was treated? It’s another indication that the Red Sox owners are hard to work for.

 After the Jets beat the Giants, 34-27, in last weekend’s Stupor Bowl, the New York Times got in on the act with this subheadline: “Jets Win a Back-and-Forth Contest Marked by Stretches of Competence.’’

 Anybody else delighted to see Walter McCarty’s Evansville Purple Aces beat John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats, 67-64, Tuesday in Lexington? McCarty was on Rick Pitino’s Kentucky team that thrashed Calipari’s UMass Minutemen in the 1996 Final Four in the Meadowlands. Like Tommy Heinsohn, we love Walter.

 LSU quarterback Joe Burrow is going to win the Heisman Trophy after his performance against Alabama last Saturday. Any way the Patriots can trade up to get him in the draft? More likely, Burrow winds up being a Cincinnati Bengal.

 Amazon god/Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos is rumored to be buying an NFL team. Bezos watched last season’s Super Bowl with Roger Goodell and would make a nice boss for the Washington Redskins.

 Former Holy Cross lefthander Matt Blake has been named pitching coach of the New York Yankees. Blake pitched four years at HC for Craig Najarian, who is now athletic director at Catholic Memorial. Just four years ago, Blake was pitching coach at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School.

 Anyone interested in attending The Tradition at the Garden on Wednesday (Matt Light, Paul Silas, Zdeno Chara, and Manny Ramirez are among the honorees) can visit sportsmuseum.org for tickets and information.

 QUIZ ANSWER: Ken Griffey Jr., Chipper Jones, Harold Baines.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Shaughnessy