The World Series is almost over. As I write this on Monday morning, there is, at most, only two more days of baseball, with the absolute latest the season can end being Wednesday night. That is always a big deal, of course, with the start of the offseason coming the day after a champion is crowned. It seems even bigger than usual for the Red Sox this year. Part of that is the fact that we’ve been begging for the offseason to come since roughly the second week of August. Even beyond that, the end of the World Series is a significant day in the scope of Boston’s search for a new manager.
While the Red Sox have interviewed a number of potential managers over the last week or so — that number is, I believe, up to seven that we know of — the general perception still seems to be that a reunion with Alex Cora is inevitable. At the very least, he remains the favorite to get the job. The Red Sox can’t formally announce that or interview him until the end of the World Series, though, as that is when his suspension that came as a result of his role in the 2017 Astros sign-stealing scandal ends. While it’s no guarantee Cora gets the job, we should at least get some sort of answer as to what will happen on that front the day after the World Series ends.
It’s unclear how much, if at all, the Red Sox will pay attention to fan sentiment in this hiring process, but at least in this corner of internet fandom it sure seems like Cora is the preferred option. And while I’ll spend most of this post disagreeing with the sentiment, I won’t deny understanding the impulse. Cora is an extremely likable guy who seemed extremely well-suited in dealing with the media in his two years in the role. That’s an important part of this job, particularly in this market. More importantly, he got things done on the field. I had issues with his bullpen management at times to be sure, but just generally he seemed to always have the team ready to play and specifically had great relationships with some of the team’s most important players. From the outside anyway, he appeared to be able to get the most out of his players, which at the end of the day is the most important thing a manager can do.
But despite all of that, I still don’t want them to hire him back. There are plenty of other options, which has been shown by the slew of young, up-and-coming candidates they have interviewed of late. The issue with Cora for me has nothing to do with his ability in the job, of course. I can’t really argue against any of that. Instead, it simply comes from a desire not to have that kind of major connection to the 2017 Astros, to say nothing of the Red Sox’s sign-stealing scandal of their own in 2018. That was certainly a smaller offense than that of Houston, but it was still, at the end of the day, a rule-breaking event. Your mileage may vary on the severity of sign-stealing in general, but Cora was at least in a major leadership position for two of them in two separate clubhouses.
As far as the Astros situation goes, there have been some conflicting reports on how involved Cora was in that. When the story first broke and the league first acted, everything was painted as Cora effectively being the mastermind behind the entire scheme. As time went on, there was some doubt put into that line of thinking, and as of now it’s still not entirely clear how much of this came down from the front office, how much of it was from the players, and what kind of role exactly Cora played. I do think that, as well as any potential role in the Red Sox’s scheme, is a not-insignificant point, and if he truly was painted as a scapegoat that is something that should be reckoned with.
It doesn’t really change my feelings on this specific question as to whether or not he should be the manager, though. At the end of the day, whatever his ultimate role was, the fact of the matter is that Cora was in a position of leadership in the clubhouse for both of these scandals. With Houston he was the number two on the coaching staff while in Boston he was, of course, at the top of the pyramid. Ultimately, when you are in that position of leadership, you are responsible for what happens under you. That’s how management works. I don’t believe Cora needs to be given the Pete Rose treatment or anything. If a team wants to hire him in some capacity later this week, more power to him and them. I just don’t feel like it’s a ridiculous sentiment to think that someone who was high on the leadership chart for two separate sign-stealing schemes in two separate clubhouses shouldn’t be put right back into the pinnacle position of his profession.
Now, I also will not pretend that I am some sort of pure, holier-than-thou fan in all of this. There is certainly a part of me that wants Cora back and that part of me will be excited if/when he is hired for all of the reasons listed above. I think if we were to look at this from strictly an on-the-field capacity and ignore any and all other context, Cora is easily the best choice. Even with 2019 (which I think gets overlooked a bit in the story of Cora as a manager), I’m confident in his ability to get the most out of the roster.
We can’t just ignore all other context, though. And while Cora may be the best candidate from purely a baseball perspective, it doesn’t mean he’s the only good one. It’s easier said than done identifying a great candidate, especially considering the relatively young and inexperienced pool that the Red Sox are interviewing, but that’s no excuse to just throw your hands up and take the easiest route no matter the context. I still ultimately believe Cora is going to get the job, and as I said there is a real part of me that will be excited about that. More of me will be disappointed, though, at the organization for taking the easy way out and the league as a whole for ultimately doing close to nothing about these cheating scandals.