Red Sox: Five team members who need to take it up a notch in 2020
By Mike Towle
Alex Cora suffered a Sophomore Jinx in 2019, proving that not only players are susceptible to performance fallbacks. It was a downer of a season for the second-year skipper as the Red Sox finished 24 games behind their franchise-record 108 regular-season wins. Everything had broken right for Cora in 2018, and it at times looked too easy.
Things went awry in 2019 for Cora from the start. The biggest misfire, and it might have been a joint decision also involving former pitching coach Dana LeVangie and ex-President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski, was pumping the brakes on starting pitchers in spring training.
You’ve heard it a million times, how Cora brought along the starters slowly in February and March, choosing to build in added rest on the front end so they would be shipshape to keep the pedal down through September and October. It turned out to be a miscalculation that squandered much of April and May, and, well, forget October.
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Mismanaging the starting staff through spring training was Cora Mistake No. 1. Cora Mistake Part Deux was his managing under the impression that his Red Sox would magically (and inevitably) turn their season around with an extended winning streak, setting their world spinning correctly on its axis once again. It would be just like the 17-2 start in 2018 that set the tone for the rest of the season. He even said so in so many words multiple times.
By the time July rolled around, though, it was apparent that Cora had misplaced the rules and instructions on how to play the game at a championship level.
Cora’s arrival to the Red Sox after the 2017 season had hit all the right notes with his connectedness and availability. His open-door stayed open. He provided a tsunami of fresh air that countered the dour environment left behind by predecessor John Farrell. In motivational, communicative sense, the Red Sox had nowhere to go but up under Cora in his first year.
Cora needs to figure out how to recapture some of that new-manager novelty of 2018. At the same time he should insert just enough of a disconnect between him and players to better assert his authority status, whereby players offer respect as well as a positive response. And when spring training starts Feb. 11 in Fort Myers, it’s TGIF: The Grind Includes February.