It’s no surprise that the Red Sox are looking for a change in direction after the disappointing response year to a championship. Just about every front office position is in scrutiny and you could argue there is almost nobody in the organization with a fully secure job. But if there’s one non-player that you’ve got to hold on to, it’s the manager. Alex Cora is a diamond that the Red Sox need to value because he is elite. It seems like all the managers not in the playoffs this year have questionable futures. Alex Cora better not. If you have been on the Alex Cora train through times of distress, read on. If not, read on to educate yourself.
It’s a piece of cake to view every aspect of a championship team as hunky-dory. It’s even easier when it’s the result of a 119-win season that ends in popping bottles. But when the going gets rough and the reality of disappointment hits, only the gifted can handle a season the way Alex Cora did this summer here. Managing a full regular season is hard. Managing a playoff team throughout October is a challenge very few are built for. In a city with some of the best skippers in sport, Alex Cora fits the bill in every way.
It doesn’t even take much insight to get a sense of what Cora brings to the table over the span of a full season. Just take a look at what Alex Cora has showcased in his two (very different) seasons with Boston.
(Photo: Ben Walker/The Star)
You want a manager that develops young talent into stardom? Just let the rise of Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Christian Vazquez sink in. Really -- raise your hand if you knew they would all blossom as superstars the way they did. Now raise your other hand to admit you’re lying. When you have as many studs in the big league organization as the Red Sox, you better have a manager that can get the best of them. Not everybody can manage star talent. Alex Cora masters it by instilling confidence in his underrated talent and honing their crafts by motivating them in the midst of the fire.
You want a manager with the golden touch? In 2019, the Red Sox led the world in pinch-hitting all season long, finishing up with a .330 average. It’s not just the decision-making -- Cora takes pride in preparation and knows how to prepare his guys for situations that might arise, days and sometimes weeks in advance.
Oh and you want a manager that takes his team to October and then doesn’t know what to do when the October cold sets in and mistakes are more costly than ever? Then go find yourself someone like Rocco Baldelli, you’re not getting that from Alex Cora. The 2019 AL Central champion Minnesota Twins were the most power-packed offense in baseball, similar to the 2018 Red Sox. The parallels to last year’s champions extended to a starting rotation that contained an ace and a bullpen with some power but several question marks. While the Twins may not have had the deepest roster in the posteason, they certainly had no business getting swept into oblivion. The truth is -- Baldelli got exposed. Despite having an incredible regular season, Baldelli put on display why October managing is a special job. From giving up on his ace early in game 1 to lacking confidence in his #2 Jake Odorizzi to refusing to make instinctive adjustments to his struggling offense, first-year manager Baldelli froze under pressure.
Cora, on the other hand, casually flexed his talents like a veteran in his rookie year at the helm. He diffused bullpen concerns in October and rolled through an October playoff run like there was never an issue. Heck, he turned David Price into a playoff hero. When everything changed in 2019, Cora quietly repeated his incredible performance. We mentioned the pinch-hitting. How about the fact that the Sox’s supposedly broken bullpen was one of the best bullpens in the American League over the last few months of the season, aided by the breakouts of Josh Taylor, Darwinzon Hernandez, and longtime Bostonian Brandon Workman? In an era where the manager position is almost always on the hot seat, Cora couldn’t give fewer hecks.
We’ve seen all sides of Cora we need to. Alex Cora is a winner with his attitude, experience, knowledge, instincts, and confidence. He can manage any version of the Red Sox and through trying times, Cora needs to remain in the clubhouse as a security blanket and a figure of hope for the organization.