Baseball is a players league, even no individual player makes an impact like they do in other leagues. Still, players are the ones out on the field playing the game, and with every win and every loss they deserve the bulk of the praise or the blame depending on the outcome. Of all the major sports, you could certainly argue baseball managers on average make less of an impact on a game-to-game basis than any other coach. Really, the biggest job for a baseball manager has always been and will likely always be managing personalities and egos over a long, six-month grind that is unheard of in other sports. I would make that argument, at least. That being said, it’s not the same as totally negating the impact of a manager, and they can have a major impact on individual games. Look no further than the Red Sox in this postseason, because rookie manager Alex Cora is putting on an absolute clinic.
This is not the first time Cora has received some praise from this website, as we talked about his impact on the team all year long after they advanced by the Yankees in the ALDS. Since then, as the team ran through the Astros and then took the first game of the World Series over the Dodgers, things have only gotten more impressive. Quite simply, everything the Red Sox manager has touched all year — and particularly all month — has turned to gold. It’s long past time for me to stop doubting him, but here we are. There’s just no justification for second-guessing Cora at all at this point.
The cherry on top of the Cora October experience was, of course, the dagger on Tuesday night. With Alex Wood entering the game and with the Red Sox having two on with two out, Cora turned to Eduardo Núñez in a pinch hitting situation. To which, I said this.
I know we're way past the point of second-guessing Cora but get all the way outta here with this https://t.co/koUbvefrc6— OverTheMonster (@OverTheMonster) October 24, 2018
No more than 20 seconds after I put in my two cents, Núñez blasted one into left field for a three-run home run. It gave the Red Sox a four-run lead and really put the game away. There were a lot of big moments in that game that I think are getting a little overshadowed by this home run, but it was the biggest singular play of the night.
The thing is, I stand by my rationale for disliking the move. Rafael Devers was the player for whom Núñez yet, and the young third baseman was having an impressive game to that point. Starting against one of the best left-handed pitchers of all time, Devers reached base in two of his three plate appearances and put up solid at bats all night. Núñez, meanwhile, has had a rough postseason following a mostly rough regular season, and on top of that he carries reverse splits. It doesn’t really make sense from the outside to put him in even with the Dodgers bringing in a left-handed pitcher. And yet, of course, it worked.
Everything is going Cora’s way right now, but putting it like that is probably doing him a bit of a disservice. The man knows his team and he knows what players thrive in what situations. On a game-to-game basis, the number one job for a manager is to put his players in a position in which they can succeed, and Cora has been able to find those positions at an almost unfathomable rate.
That Núñez home run wasn’t even the only example of the night. Sandy León has been totally lost at the plate since the All-Star break, and yet he not only caught Chris Sale but also stayed in the rest of the night. Of course, he put up his first multi-hit game since the final game of the first half. Ryan Brasier stayed on to face Manny Machado despite looking really rough in his outing, and while he allowed a run he also got an out. Eduardo Rodriguez hasn’t inspired confidence since coming back from his injury and hasn’t really been trusted all postseason. Still, Cora used him as a LOOGY to get one of the biggest outs of the night against Cody Bellinger. All of these were reasons to be anxious and wonder what the hell Cora was doing, and all of them worked.
Right now, the Red Sox manager is your friend at the craps table who just can’t seem to make a bad throw of the dice. Except, in this case, Cora can actually control what he’s doing. From afar, however, your reaction is the same and your job is the same. You know you want your friend to take what he’s got and walk away, but he just keeps winning. The same is happening with Cora, and finally I’m learning to just shut the hell up and watch the man work. It’s gotten this team three wins away from a championship.