The Boston Red Sox may not have done due diligence regarding Alex Cora, but the significant issue may be stress. Can Cora handle the stress of Boston?
In life and baseball, the key is not how you respond to the good times, but how you respond to adversity. In baseball, when a team is winning the grousing and complaining are minimized or ignored, the media is friendly and cooperative, the fans gleeful and ownership is their own special world as team value increases. When it goes bad? Let’s just leave that with the name – Bobby Valentine.
Boston is an incredibly difficult place for players and management – meaning manager and up to the corporate food chain. The phrase “He can’t play in this town” is almost synonymous with a player who fails or disappoints. Let’s just leave that with the name – Carl Crawford.
Crash and burn can come quickly, and one needs to just look at the recent historical record with Terry Francona. Francona had failed in Philadelphia but was respected prior to and after his Philadelphia experience. A noted “Player’s manager” who was well acquainted with the moods of a baseball clubhouse as a former player and being brought up in an MLB environment via his father – Tito Francona.
Was he a great manager? In game management, I considered Francona average, but he was absolutely perfect for Boston with his ability to insulate the players and keep the distractions to a minimal. But how quickly that turned, and it was a healthy dose of stress.
Francona was going through a personal trauma of a divorce and that was coupled with significant health issues. Eventually word “Leaked out” that Francona was taking large doses of prescribed medications. As the team was failing, the “Beer and chicken” mess was going on. The perfect storm for simply jettisoning your manager.
With Alex Cora, the incident reported during the 2017 season is really nothing in the proverbial big picture. Over the course of the season, brush fires happen between players, coaches, managers, media, and innocent bystanders as demonstrated by David Price. You know what happens and hits the fan attached to these kerfuffles.
What is mentioned regarding Cora is alcohol and the possible disaster his home and family faced in Puerto Rico with Hurricane Harvey. Reportedly Cora has no issues with alcohol, but just what about stress? The one item Cora will face in Boston with the good and with especially bad times is stress. Can he handle it?
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Cora knows the Boston market as a former player for the team and is aware of the potential minefield that exists with petulant players and media turning over every rock to find a story – hopefully a negative one. If the Red Sox start to play .500 ball what will happen when fans start looking for a target and the voracious media starts looking for “incidents” that may be real or imagined?
Then there are the players. The Red Sox certainly have a few players who are not shy about expressing their opinions – especially opinions that are critical to their performance. And players such as Dustin Pedroia who may or may not be sending mixed messages about game situation incidents. Toss in a player or two having a less than a spectacular season and the clubhouse could become the hothouse.
I have no doubt that Cora can handle the nuts and bolts of game decisions and pitching management. None. What I have my doubts about is the idea of stress that is related to the job. Boston is not Houston and is a city where a manager can be a tasty treat for media and fans. Just ask John Farrell.
With Cora, we won’t know until the season progresses. If the team wins even the most self-centered of players will tend to keep their yap closed, but if it goes sour we may see the beginning of the end for the Cora regime. My bet is Cora is sharp enough to keep his sensibilities. If not then it is Valentine again.