Alex Cora played for Terry Francona with the Red Sox from 2005-08 and the two have remained good friends as Francona's managerial career took him to Cleveland and Cora assumed Francona's old job in Boston in 2017.
Francona told WEEI on Wednesday that it hurts seeing Cora let go by the Red Sox after the former utility infielder on Francona's successful teams in Boston - including the 2007 world champions - was implicated in a sign-stealing scandal.
"Personally, because Alex is such a good friend of mine, you feel like you got kicked in the stomach a little bit. You never want to see your friends -- you know, things happen like that," Francona said on WEEI's "Ordway, Merloni and Fauria" show.
Francona said he couldn't comment further on the punishments handed out by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, who suspended now-former Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow for a year before they were subsequently fired Monday. Cora, a former Astros bench coach, was the central figure in MLB's report detailing the Astros' 2017 sign-stealing system.
MLB is continuing to investigate similar charges of the Red Sox employing a similar sign-stealing system that used the video replay room in 2018, Cora's first year as Sox manager. Cora and the Red Sox announced a mutual "parting of ways" on Tuesday night.
"Even if I was allowed to answer, I'm not too sure what my answer would be, and that's the truth," Francona said. "It's kind of confusing."
The confusion and crossing the line comes when technology is used to steal signs. Decoding an opponent's signals during a game strictly by observation has always been a part of the game.
"In our game, you go all the way back to the 1950s and some of these things get romanticized. It's part of baseball," Francona said. "And then all of a sudden, you have all of this technology and it gets a little confusing. I think there probably were some lines that were crossed."
Francona took exception to the idea that the Astros, and perhaps the Red Sox, have been caught doing what all teams do.
"Yeah, I don't think people should say that because that's not true," he said. "I would take offense to that."
Francona said the scandal doesn't change his high regard for Cora and Hinch.
This will pass," he said. "You're talking about two guys in A.J. and Alex Cora that are really good guys. You don't want to see it happen to people, you don't want to see it happen to the game, but they're still really good people, and that's never going to change."