Alex Cora is expected to return as manager of the Boston Red Sox next season despite a disappointing campaign that will likely end without a playoff spot.
The Boston Red Sox will undergo some significant changes in the wake of what is shaping up to be a lost season but the manager won’t be one of those changes.
After the news struck that the Red Sox had dismissed Dave Dombrowski from his role as president of baseball operations, many wondered if manager Alex Cora would join him as a scapegoat for the team’s failures. Apparently, that’s not the case.
According to WBZ’s Dan Roche, Red Sox ownership met with the players in the clubhouse to express their confidence in Cora and assure them that the manager would be back next season.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Cora proved himself as a rookie manager by leading the Red Sox to a franchise-record 108 wins and a World Series title last year.
This year has been a step back for the franchise. A three-game losing streak pushed the Red Sox 18.5 games behind the New York Yankees, eliminating them from contention for their fourth consecutive division title. Boston technically remains alive in the Wild Card race but at eight games back with two teams to climb over, that path remains a long shot.
It’s a drastic fall from last year’s historic season but let’s keep things in perspective. Boston is still almost certain to finish with a winning record and at least played some meaningful games in September. Those calling for Cora’s head are acting like this year has been their worst nightmare. Did they forget that this team had consecutive last-place finishes on the heels of their 2013 championship? How about virtually anything that happened in our lifetimes prior to 2004? Trust me, this isn’t that bad.
The Red Sox clearly didn’t live up to expectations but the blame can’t be pinned on Cora. It’s not his fault that his high-priced starting rotation broke down with injuries. Cora managed a bullpen that struggled to hold leads but he didn’t assemble the pieces that lacked a proven closer.
If Cora deserves blame for anything, it’s for treating April like an extended spring training. The rotation saw limited action during the exhibition schedule in an effort to conserve their arms for another postseason run. The plan backfired when the woefully unprepared starters all sputtered through their first few starts. The Red Sox buried themselves with a 3-9 start and 13-17 April record, forcing them to fight an uphill battle for the remainder of the season.
Holding the staff back from building up to a proper workload in the spring was a mistake from a young manager. Lesson learned. He won’t make the same mistake again next year and since his pitchers won’t be worn down from a deep postseason run, there’s no reason to.
The decision to keep Cora shouldn’t be judged based on what he did last year versus this season. He still has all the same qualities that made him an attractive candidate to begin with. Cora has a brilliant baseball mind and he’s an excellent communicator with his players. He has the respect of his team and he never lost the clubhouse through the pressure of an underachieving season.
Even great managers eventually see their time run out. Either the players have tuned them out or the organization needs to shake things up by bringing in a fresh voice. That hasn’t happened with Cora. Letting him go would be a mistake and you can guarantee another team would quickly scoop him up if they did.
Firing Dombrowski caught the team by surprise and wasn’t handled as well as it should have been, even if the move was necessary. At least ownership did the right thing by giving Cora a vote of confidence so that the manager and his players won’t have any uncertainty hanging over their heads heading into next season.