Red Sox skipper Alex Cora falls short to Oakland’s Bob Melvin for Manager of the Year
By Sean Penney
Oakland A’s manager Bob Melvin wins the AL Manager of the Year award over Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora. Was this the right decision?
It’s hard to imagine a better debut for a rookie manager. Alex Cora led the Boston Red Sox to a franchise record 108 regular season wins on the way to a World Series championship. Somehow, it still wasn’t enough to be considered the league’s best manager.
The Baseball Writers Association of America has named Bob Melvin of the Oakland A’s as the 2018 American League Manager of the Year. Melvin received 18 first-place votes, while Cora finished second with seven first-place votes. Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash was third with five first-place votes.
Melvin receives the honor for the third time, winning previously with the A’s in 2012 and with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2007. Oakland won 97 games and claimed a Wild Card spot despite operating under the lowest payroll in baseball. The image of the A’s as an underdog competing against contenders with massive financial advantages presumably played a part in many voters leaning toward Melvin.
His track record speaks for itself and Melvin was clearly a worthy contender for what he accomplished with limited resources. But, come on. The award should have gone to Cora!
Melvin was great but what Cora did was historic. Not only did the Red Sox set a franchise record, but their win total was also the second-most ever by a rookie manager (109 wins – Ralph Houk, 1961 New York Yankees).
While payroll flexibility was an obvious roadblock in Oakland, Cora dealt with his own set of challenges. Few can claim to have endured the pressures Cora faced walking into the frying pan of the Boston market. Yes, Cora inherited a contending team with the highest payroll in baseball but that also meant expectations were sky high. We’re talking about an organization that fired his predecessor because consecutive division titles simply weren’t good enough.
Cora not only handled the media, fans, and pressure of managing a large market team with grace and dignity, he endeared himself to his players in a way former manager John Farrell never could. Cora is an excellent communicator who made a connection with this team unlike any we’ve seen in years.
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Being backed by an ownership group willing to splurge on J.D. Martinez in free agency certainly made an impact but not enough to account for a 15-win improvement. Anchoring the lineup with a bonafide slugger isn’t the only reason the Red Sox went from first-round fodder to world champions. Much of that credit goes to Cora, who squeezed every ounce of talent from his players and pulled all the right strings.
The Red Sox haven’t had a manager win this award since Jimy Williams in 1999. That drought will last at least one more year.
Perhaps that’s for the best. Three of the last four AL Manager of the Year winners were fired at the end of the 2018 season – Buck Showalter, Jeff Banister, and Paul Molitor. Terry Francona has won twice in the last five years with the Cleveland Indians after having been fired by the Red Sox. Winning the Manager of the Year award hasn’t exactly done wonders for job security.
That’s something Cora shouldn’t have to worry about anytime soon. He’s beloved in Boston and highly respected within the organization. When Farrell won the 2013 World Series in his first season as Red Sox manager it wasn’t enough to alleviate the feeling that he was on the hot seat each year. That’s not the case with Cora.
He may not have the hardware but Cora doesn’t need it for Red Sox fans to know how much he means to this team. He wasn’t named Manager of the Year but he’s our manager. That’s enough for us.