Just how good a manager is the Red Sox’s, Alex Cora
The Boston Red Sox organization has a very successful manager in Alex Cora. Cora’s first season resulted in a World Series title and his second season saw a reverse finishing third in the American League East and missing the playoffs. What followed is a sorry tale that will be included in any severe discussion regarding Cora and his legacy – the Houston Astros cheating scandal.
Cora was the bench coach for the 2017 champion Astros and was supposedly the instigator of a cheating scandal using that most notorious of all cheating tools a trash can. A key component of my view of this incident is that manager A.J. Hinch was reported to have warned Cora to stop, and Cora did not abide. Hinch gets the can as in canned from his job, and Cora bags a one-year suspension.
Alex returned to the Red Sox in 2021, and the team barely missed a trip to the World Series. This season Boston tanked in the early going and has recovered with playoff aspirations clearly in view. But just how good is Cora?
If the judgment is based on team performance, he is a success, and they win, which is the ultimate goal of leadership and teamwork. This season has been especially trying for the passionate fanbase, and Cora has made the best of a pitching staff that certainly could use a barrel of Red Bull and a book on not hanging sliders. Still, the moves have generally panned out.
Regarding moves, one can play the dueling game of anecdotal references when Cora should have, could have, and did not. For me, the plus far outweighs the negative choices in his overall decision-making.
You can examine managerial tendencies on Baseball-Reference, but that does not nor should it give a complete picture. The refinement is just what decisions a manager makes in situations. Tendencies also go beyond metrics and the reams of information the analytical staff hands out to players and coaches.
I see Cora as one who will combine the old with the new. Or, as a discussion took place among the talking heads during a game – a gut feeling. Is there any value to that? Is it being influenced by a tidbit buried somewhere on page 31 on what to expect on a 2-1 count? Joe Maddon recently was fired and had a rant directed at the Angels’ analytical staff and GM. Any more bridges to burn, Joe?
Managers have to place players in positions where they can succeed, and that could be a late-inning defensive replacement, a pinch hitter, not letting Steven Wright run the bases, and so on. I give Cora high marks in that category. The calls during the game are mostly successful as I have a habit of saying, “this is what should be done,” and when hindsight is in place, thankfully, Cora was not getting any mental vibes from me.
Keeping a diverse group of players in a happy place over 162 games is an incredible task, especially when things go sour. Cora is a far cry from Bobby Valentine or the menacing physical presence of John Farrell. Even when the wheels fell off in April, the ship had a happy crew, and a manager deserves credit for that.
There has been no real linage of internal disputes, caustic “anonymous sources,” or public displays of dissatisfaction. Cora appears to have a firm hand but is as far away from the Dick Williams school of badass as possible. Cora knows his players, their personalities, and their idiosyncrasies. An outstanding job.
Terry Francona was one of the best, if not the best, I have seen in Boston. Francona would get hammered for resting players, especially pitcher Tim Wakefield having a start subsisting on primarily bench players. Cora was a bench player and knows the importance of keeping all involved. Again I give Cora high marks in that category.
I am a former teacher and have coached baseball, and a baseball coach and manager must be a teacher even at the highest level. Cora does just that, and his methods range from a challenge to instruction. Cora is fulfilling the role of a director of education to his coaching staff. The operation runs smoothly, although I have some concerns about former batting coach Tim Hyers resigning. Hopefully, as Hyers stated, it is an “opportunity to start ground up.”
The Red Sox farm system is showing some dividends, and Cora will be center stage in their MLB career. He has done rather well, with youngsters who have arrived often showing too much patience. You will see snapshots of the dugout in a particularly trying moment, with Alex giving a guiding hand, not a backhand. This does not go unnoticed by all.
Baseball is a year-round job for the manager, and AC revels in it, especially the offseason winter ball. Cora will mention how a player is performing and undoubtedly is also on a scouting mission. This is a manager that is aware, and that, again, is a plus factor.
Few could handle the voracious Boston media like Francona. His style was homespun, at times self-deprecating, accountable, and with an open door – at least in most circumstances. Cora is quite similar, and the humor can be quite subtle. Playing in Boston for four years and being part of the 2007 team did not make Cora a novice to the local environment.
He is not above the occasional rant to the media, and you will not hear any Tommy Lasorda invective laced tirades. Oh, those were some classics, especially the one on Kurt Bevacqua. An epic postgame media meltdown.
How do you get along with the boss? Tom Yawkey had a drinking buddy in Pinky Higgins. The loathsome Higgins was both manager and general manager for the Red Sox and a notorious drunk which may have been his best point. Times have changed. The Red Sox re-hired Cora after the messy suspension situation. No doubt the lines of communication are well established with Chaim Bloom despite Cora being a Dave Dombrowski hire. This seems like a seamless situation.
Cora had terrible times as a player, being traded and released numerous times over a 14-year MLB career. He knows the minor league grind, a championship’s highs, and the lows of losing his job. That becomes part of the person and part of being a manager.
Is Cora a great manager? While researching for this post, several others have him comfortably set as one of the best, and I feel comfortable saying the same. This is a quality leader, and I am glad management (again) paid me no heed when I was aghast over his rehiring.