How good of a manager is Alex Cora?

Alex Cora, what a good manager the Red Sox are

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 faced a setback when he finished third in the American League East and missed the playoffs. What followed is a sad story that will be included in any serious discussion of Cora and his legacy – the Houston Astros cheating scandal.

Cora was the bench coach to the 2017 Astros champion and allegedly the instigator of a cheating scandal involving the use of the most infamous cheating tool of all, a trash can. A key element of my view on this incident is that manager AJ Hinch reportedly warned Cora to quit and Cora did not comply. Hinch gets the can of his job and Cora gets a year’s ban.

Alex returned to the Red Sox in 2021, and the team narrowly missed a trip to the World Series. This season, Boston has tanked and recovered in the early days, with playoff ambitions clearly in sight. But how good is Cora?

If the judgment is based on team performance, it’s a success and they win, which is the ultimate goal of leadership and teamwork. This season has been a particularly trying one for the ardent fanbase, and Cora has made the best of a pitching team that could certainly use a keg of Red Bull and a book on unstuck sliders. Still, movements have generally failed.

In terms of moves, one can play the dueling game of anecdotal references when Cora should have, could have, and didn’t. To me, the pluses far outweigh the negative choices in his overall decision-making.

One can study managerial tendencies on baseball reference, but that’s not meant to be a complete picture. The refinement is exactly what a manager decides in certain situations. Trends also go beyond metrics and the reams of information that the analytics team hands out to players and coaches.

I see Cora as someone who combines the old with the new. Or how a discussion took place among the talking heads during a game – a gut feeling. Does that have any value? Will it be influenced by a tidbit buried somewhere on page 31 about what to expect at a 2-1 count? Joe Maddon was recently fired and had a tirade against the Angels analytical staff and GM. More bridges to burn, Joe?

Managers need to put players in positions where they can be successful, and that could be a late-inning backup backup, a pinch-hitter, not letting Steven Wright direct the bases, and so on. I give Cora high marks in this category. The calls during the game are mostly successful as I have a habit of saying “this should be done” and in hindsight Cora fortunately didn’t get any mental vibes from me.

Keeping a diverse group of players happy across 162 games is an incredible task, especially when things go wrong. 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 for that a manager deserves credit.

There was no real descent from internal disputes, caustic “anonymous sources,” or public expressions of dissatisfaction. Cora seems to have a sure hand, but is as far from Dick Williams’ badass school as she can get. Cora knows his players, their personalities and their peculiarities. An excellent job.

Terry Francona was one of the best, if not the best, I’ve seen in Boston. Francona was hammered for dormant players, particularly pitcher Tim Wakefield, who initially thrived on bench players. Cora was a bench player and knows the importance of keeping everyone involved. Again, I give Cora good marks in this category.

I am a former teacher and 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 challenge to guidance. Cora fulfills the role of Education Director for his coaching staff. Operations are running smoothly, although I have some concerns about the retirement of former batting coach Tim Hyers. Hopefully, as Hyers said, it’s an “opportunity to start from scratch.”

The Red Sox’s farm system is showing some dividends, and Cora will be the focus of her MLB career. He’s done pretty well, with youngsters who have arrived often showing too much patience. You’ll see snaps from the dugout at a particularly difficult moment, with Alex giving a leading hand, not a backhand. This does not go unnoticed by everyone.

Baseball is a year-round job for the manager, and AC loves it, especially the offseason winter ball. Cora will mention how a player is performing and no doubt also on a scouting mission. This is a conscious manager, and again that’s a plus.

Few could handle Boston’s voracious media like Francona. His style was down to earth, sometimes self-deprecating, responsible and open – at least in most cases. Cora is quite similar and the humor can be quite subtle. Playing four years in Boston and being part of the 2007 team didn’t make Cora a newcomer to the local area.

He’s not above the occasional rant to the media, and you won’t hear any rants berating Tommy Lasorda. Oh, those were some classics, especially the one about Kurt Bevacqua. An epic post-game media crisis.

How do you get along with the boss? Tom Yawkey had a drinking buddy in Pinky Higgins. The hideous Higgins was both manager and general manager for the Red Sox and a notorious drunk, which was perhaps his best point. The times have changed. The Red Sox reinstated Cora after the messy suspension situation. There is no doubt that lines of communication with Chaim Bloom are well established, although Cora is an associate of Dave Dombrowski. This appears to be a seamless situation.

Cora had a terrible time as a player, being traded and fired multiple times during her 14-year MLB career. He knows the minor league grind, the highs of a championship, and the lows of losing your job. That becomes part of the person and part of being a manager.

Is Cora a great manager? While researching this post, several others comfortably ranked it as one of the best, and I feel comfortable saying the same. This is a quality leader and I’m glad management (once again) ignored me when I was appalled at his reinstatement.

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