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Bogaerts: Cora will be 'dearly missed'

@IanMBrowne
January 16, 2020

BOSTON -- Xander Bogaerts was in town for what should have been a joyous occasion -- collecting his trophy as MVP of the 2019 Red Sox at Thursday night’s Boston Baseball Writers’ Dinner. But the shortstop, who is considered by most to be the emotional leader of the Red Sox,

BOSTON -- Xander Bogaerts was in town for what should have been a joyous occasion -- collecting his trophy as MVP of the 2019 Red Sox at Thursday night’s Boston Baseball Writers’ Dinner.

But the shortstop, who is considered by most to be the emotional leader of the Red Sox, could not hide his sadness about the fact that Alex Cora is no longer his manager. Nor did he try.

As always, Bogaerts spoke from the heart in his briefing with reporters two days after the news that Cora and the Red Sox had parted ways.

“I’ve talked to him a couple of times [since the news came out]. It’s just sad. It’s just sad that he won’t be our manager,” said Bogaerts. “As I said, just the person that he was to us, there can’t be anyone in that clubhouse that has an issue with him or something bad to say about him.”

The Red Sox and Cora decided their partnership was no longer sustainable given what MLB uncovered in its investigation regarding the Astros. Cora, as Houston’s bench coach in 2017, was a central figure in the sign-stealing scheme that has dominated the news cycle this week.

Bogaerts sounded as if he was still processing the news.

“It’s hard, man, it’s hard,” Bogaerts said. “Especially the day I got that news. It was hard because knowing the team we have and everything we had going on was pretty special. And with him in charge, it was obviously great. It’s unfortunate he’s not going to be with us. He’ll be dearly missed for sure.”

The fact that the Red Sox also are currently under investigation by MLB for sign stealing only clouds the situation further.

On Wednesday, the Red Sox asked fans to withhold judgment on what took place during the 2018 championship season until Commissioner Rob Manfred releases his report.

Bogaerts was asked whether that World Series title was tainted.

“Absolutely not,” Bogaerts said. “We came to the park every day, worked hard, practiced hard, worked as teammates, had each others’ backs, had a great coaching staff who went along with that.”

Of all things, it was an emoji that gave it away to Bogaerts that Cora was no longer his manager.

“How did I find out? One of my teammates -- I don't want to go into names -- he posted a sad emoji and I was like, ‘Something is going on.’ I saw the news was starting to break out,” said Bogaerts. “It was very unfortunate. I was at a baseball field practicing. After practice, I saw everything coming fast.”

And now Bogaerts finds himself in the awkward spot of not knowing who his manager will be with less than a month before Spring Training.

“That is real strange, honestly,” said Bogaerts. “Obviously, stuff happens in life. This was very unexpected.”

When Cora had his grand unveiling in November 2017 as the new manager of the Red Sox, one of the first players he challenged was Bogaerts. Cora felt the shortstop could become an elite player. And that’s what happened the past two seasons.

“I think he helped me get to the other level that I was trying to reach. I’m very thankful for him,” said Bogaerts. “When he came over here, he just pushed all of us to heights that we obviously wanted to reach.”

For sure, Cora’s absence is going to hit Bogaerts again once Spring Training starts. And probably again when the regular season starts.

“Obviously he’s pretty much the first person after the security guy that you see once you get into that clubhouse,” said Bogaerts. “The way he communicated with us as players was really nice, and it just made everyone feel loved.”

Michael Chavis, who was honored as the team’s Rookie of the Year on Thursday, lauded Cora for his people skills.

“You hate seeing someone lose their job, and Alex has been so genuine and kind to me, and I can't thank him enough for that,” Chavis said. “He was very good to me. It's my first time in the big leagues, obviously, and I'm trying to learn as much as I can and I'm nervous, and he did a very good job of making me comfortable.

“In my opinion, he went out of his way just to make sure I was comfortable, because having played and been in that position before, he knew how much pressure there was, so I'm very thankful for that.”

What is Bogaerts hoping for from Boston’s next manager?

“Someone like [Cora],” Bogaerts said. “First year, he came in and won. Everything seemed so easy. Last year, we had some rough stretches. We still ended the season over .500. That’s not where we wanted to be, but he did a great job with us. It’s hard managing 25 guys, keeping them all on the same page. Not letting that clubhouse break apart is something that’s not easy to do.”

And heading into 2020, Bogaerts will probably play an even bigger role than he already has in trying to keep the clubhouse together amid these unforeseen circumstances.

“I think we have the right pieces,” Bogaerts said. “The good thing is we have a team that’s pretty much familiar. Most of the guys came back. We obviously have a few pieces that haven’t signed yet and were huge parts of this team. But there’s still a few more weeks till Spring Training. I don’t know what will happen until then, but obviously we have a lot of veterans in this clubhouse to make another run and forget about the distractions.”

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.