Cora back as Red Sox skipper on 2-year deal

November 6th, 2020

BOSTON -- After an exhaustive search to find their next manager, the Red Sox landed in familiar company, deciding to bring back Alex Cora, the team announced on Friday.

Cora returns on a two-year deal running through 2022 with a two-year club option for the '23 and '24 seasons.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to manage once again and return to the game I have loved my entire life,” Cora said in a statement. " ... I am eager to get back to work with our front office, coaches, and especially our players. Boston is where I have always wanted to be and I could not be more excited to help the Red Sox achieve our ultimate goal of winning in October."

After interviewing as many as nine candidates, then whittling it down to five finalists, the last two in the mix by Thursday night were Cora and Sam Fuld, the director of integrative performance for the Phillies.

Ultimately, Cora’s experience in managing the Red Sox to a World Series championship just two years ago -- not to mention the strong relationships he has with ownership, the front office, the coaching staff and key players on the roster -- was too compelling for chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom to pass up.

Bloom was also thoroughly impressed by Fuld, a rising analytics guru and former Major Leaguer he had a strong relationship with during their years together with the Rays.

Speculation persisted for months that Cora -- who had a mutual parting of ways with the Red Sox in January due to his involvement in the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal -- could reclaim his job in Boston once his suspension expired after the World Series.

It wound up being true, but only after Bloom reviewed several other options.

"We considered a very impressive slate of candidates – the brightest managerial prospects in the game today," Bloom said. "Because of all that had happened, I knew that I wanted to speak with Alex once his suspension ended, but I didn’t yet know if it made sense to consider him for the job as well. Our conversations were lengthy, intense, and emotional. Alex knows that what he did was wrong, and he regrets it.

"My belief is that every candidate should be considered in full: strengths and weaknesses, accomplishments and failures. That is what I did with Alex in making this choice. He loves the Red Sox and the game of baseball, and because of that we believe he will make good on this second chance."

Momentum started to build in Cora’s direction last week, when Bloom and general manager Brian O’Halloran flew to Puerto Rico to meet with the man who managed the Red Sox in 2018 and ’19.

Cora’s suspension, which spanned the entire 2020 baseball season, expired after the Dodgers beat the Rays in the clinching Game 6 of the World Series on Oct. 27.

"This past year, I have had time to reflect and evaluate many things, and I recognize how fortunate I am to lead this team once again," Cora said. "Not being a part of the game of baseball, and the pain of bringing negative attention to my family and this organization was extremely difficult. I am sorry for the harm my past actions have caused and will work hard to make this organization and its fans proud."

The Red Sox initially hired Cora to be their manager in October 2017. Other than winter ball, Cora had no previous managing experience.

But as a rookie skipper in 2018, Cora guided the Red Sox to a franchise-record 108 victories and the club steamrolled the competition in October, going 11-3 to claim the franchise’s fourth World Series title in a span of 15 seasons. Boston slipped to 84-78 under Cora in ’19.

Bloom was hired to run the front office a few weeks after that 2019 season ended, and he had a couple of months that offseason to build a relationship with Cora before the results of the Astros’ sign-stealing investigation changed everything.

In the rare position of needing to find a manager with just weeks to go before Spring Training, the Red Sox elevated bench coach Ron Roenicke to the job vacated by Cora.

Amid tough circumstances -- including Mookie Betts being traded and a rash of injuries to key pitchers -- Boston finished 24-36 in the shortened 2020 season. On the final day of the regular season, Bloom informed Roenicke that the club wouldn’t be bringing him back as manager for the ‘21 season.

That led to a thorough search in which three bench coaches – the Marlins’ James Rowson, the Pirates’ Don Kelly and the Yankees’ Carlos Mendoza -- were the other finalists.

Speculation that the 45-year-old Cora might come back increased on Oct. 12, when the Red Sox announced that all members of the coaching staff were invited to return next season, with the exception of bullpen coach Craig Bjornson and bench coach Jerry Narron, the latter of whom was brought in by Roenicke.

With Cora back in the fold, the Red Sox hope to rebound from a tough 2020 season, in which they had all kinds of pitching problems and were never really in contention. Bloom will spend the winter trying to upgrade the pitching staff.

Cora’s return is great news for the core Red Sox players who had a strong relationship with him and felt devastated when he left the club in January.

Team leader is one of the biggest Cora fans out there. Lefty , third baseman , slugger and catcher are among others who benefited from Cora’s ability to be a strong motivator.

In Cora’s first go-around with the Red Sox, he was respected for how closely he worked with every level of the organization. This included the analytics department, as Cora always appreciated the information he received from them and was strong at implementing it during games.