Cora's cool presence in Year 1 inspires Sox
Rookie manager praised for tactical moves, clubhouse leadership
LOS ANGELES -- Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski gushed about manager Alex Cora in the same glowing manner as the players, coaches and owner did following Boston's World Series clincher on Sunday, but with one slight caveat -- he focused a little less on the "rookie" part and more on the leadership.
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"Forget that everybody says first-year manager," Dombrowski said. "He's a manager."
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Dombrowski has a point. Cora may have started the season with no managerial experience, but it didn't take long for him to establish himself as a legitimate leader of a team with high expectations and enormous talent, in a city where every move, pitch and loss is scrutinized 11 ways by the passionate fan base that comprises Red Sox Nation.
How did Cora respond to those expectations? He guided the Sox to their best season ever -- 119 wins in the regular season and postseason combined, against just 57 losses. Cora became just the fifth rookie manager in MLB history to win the World Series, and the first since Bob Brenly guided the D-backs to a championship in 2001. Cora also is the first Puerto Rican to manage a team to a World Series title and only the second Latino, joining Venezuelan Ozzie Guillen, who accomplished the feat with the 2005 White Sox.
"I give him all the credit in the world," Red Sox owner John Henry said. "We had unity this year that was unlike any I've ever seen in the clubhouse before. Alex brought these guys together, he did everything right on every level. Can you tell me where he made a mistake?"
With a historic winning percentage, it's hard to find flaws. Cora's tactical skills were rarely questioned. Players swore by him inside the clubhouse. And, throughout the postseason, it seemed that every button Cora pushed, every chance he took, every against-the-grain decision he made, worked.
That included Cora's late decision to start David Price on short rest for Game 5, instead of Chris Sale, who had previously been announced as the starter.
Of course, it worked.
"If A.C. had asked me to start every game, I would have done it," Price said. "I wanted to be out there."
Cora has won a World Series as a player, a coach and now as a manager. Boston's Game 5 clincher fell on the 11-year anniversary of when he earned a ring with the 2007 Red Sox, and he won this one at the same venue as he did last year, as Astros manager AJ Hinch's bench coach. Houston beat Los Angeles in seven games in a 2017 World Series that also ended at Chavez Ravine.
This year, Cora's team had to get through the defending champs to have a chance at the title, which the Red Sox did quite handily, beating the Astros in five games in the American League Championship Series to capture the pennant.
Hinch lauded Cora for his efforts as a first-year manager.
"It is so impressive to see what he accomplished this year," Hinch said. "He went from the World Series with us right into building his own staff, building relationships, and setting an incredibly good tone for his team. Hard to top the proud feeling of managing a World Series winning team, and he's really earned it. I'm happy for him and impressed with the way he did it."
The respect among the Red Sox's players is seemingly unanimous.
"He's been great," Sale said. "The entire season, he's been calm, cool and collected. I've said it a million times, it can be 10 to nothing or 1-1, he's the same guy. When you can look at your manager and he's over there just eating sunflower seeds, having a good time, ready for the next big thing to happen, it sends a shock wave through the dugout and helps you relax a little bit."
Cora's approval rating is sky high, from the dugout all the way to the very top of the organization.
"Phenomenal," Dombrowski said. "He had a grasp of the personnel so quickly. To be able to communicate with them and connect with them, it was really a phenomenal job."