Right now, due to a certain franchise a little bit southwest of Boston coming through with a massive trade over the weekend, things are a little bleak for Red Sox fans. So, it seems like a good time to remind people that there are a lot of reasons to be excited about 2018. The pitching should be stellar again, specifically because of Chris Sale but also because of the possibility of a healthy David Price in the rotation. The outfield defense should be special once again, as long as everyone is kept around, and the growth of that trio is going to be thrilling to watch. Similarly, getting to see a full year for Rafael Devers at third base is going to be rad. So much of this team is going to be fun to watch, but lately I’ve been getting more and more excited to see Alex Cora in action.
Now, I was never among those who felt that John Farrell was the guy holding the Red Sox back. Granted, I didn’t think he was taking them beyond where they could be, either, but he was fine and they would have probably been fine if they kept him around. That being said, getting a new face in is always exciting, and that’s doubly true when they come as recommended as Cora was by some of his former bosses. On Tuesday down in Orlando for the Winter Meetings, the Red Sox manager met with some members of the media and discussed a few of his plans for the upcoming year. Some of it we already knew, but it conjunction it sounds like he has the right kind of vision for this team.
First and foremost, there is Cora’s desire for the team to be more aggressive at the plate. This is something we’ve discussed before, and as I said in this piece this is exactly what the doctor ordered for so many players in this Red Sox lineup.
#RedSox manager Alex Cora thinks his team can hit for more power if they just change their approach at the plate. pic.twitter.com/FF3zJljfRF— MLB Network Radio Sirius 209, XM 89 (@MLBNetworkRadio) December 12, 2017
It’s nice to see that Cora recognizes that the biggest need for this team is internal improvement from its offensive players, and this is the best place to start. Most important is that it should lead to better results for the team, but more selfishly it’s also a more exciting game to watch when players are ready to jump on any pitch thrown to them. So, thanks for that Alex.
In addition to the approach at the plate, Cora has different visions for the team at the top of the lineup than the previous regime. Specifically, he wants to start games off with Mookie Betts at the top of the lineup and Andrew Benintendi hitting behind him. This wouldn’t be the first time Betts has led off — he did it for a long stretch last year — but Farrell mostly put him in the middle of the lineup. Cora’s reasoning behind this strategy is to put early pressure on opponents, and that’s a strategy that worked wonders for his former team in Houston. Obviously, this is not that Astros lineup, but the theory is a smart one for a team that struggled mightily for early runs in 2017.
Then, there is what appears to be Cora’s pet project for this season: Fixing Xander Bogaerts’ defense. The young shortstop is good enough to pass at the position for right now, but it seems as if he’s been trending in the wrong direction. This is too important of a position to allow that to continue, and Bogaerts’ future is still extremely bright if he is able to stay around average with the glove. There is no guarantee Cora will be able to get Bogaerts back on the right track in the field, but Cora was once a very strong middle infielder and it’s nice to see a manager take such a personal interest in a key issue for his club.
Finally, there is the most discussed portion of a manager’s job: Managing the bullpen. Everyone has their ideal way they would see a relief corps utilized, and more and more people have that involving a closer playing a more flexible role. I think that’s still easier said than done, but ideally managers will be more willing to use their best reliever before the ninth. To his credit, Cora indicates he will do that as much as he can. Now, to be fair, this is not going to be much of a change for Farrell who did this quite a bit in 2017. In today’s game, it’s nice that he’s not just shooting down the idea right out of the gate.
Managers meeting with the media generally doesn’t tell us all that much, and Cora is mostly doing his job of getting out the message that people want to hear. That being said, I don’t think he’s lying about any of the strategies he’s talking about above. Much of it might seem like common sense, but you never know what a manager is thinking. Even if every single plan of his doesn’t work out, it certainly seems like Cora has his priorities in the right place and is taking the right steps towards getting the most out of his team.