'I'm glad that I'm here': Cora talks future with Sox

February 13th, 2024

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- For years, the Red Sox have marked the beginning of Spring Training with the manager speaking the day before the team’s first official workout.

While Alex Cora continued that tradition on Tuesday, there’s uncertainty in the air regarding the manager who guided the club to a World Series title in 2018 and another deep postseason run in ’21.

Will Cora’s sixth season managing the Red Sox be his last?

Though Cora doesn’t have a contract beyond 2024, he was at ease discussing his uncertain future.

“No, not at all,” said Cora, asked if contract limbo was a stressor. “Like I've been saying all along, this is where we’re at and whatever happens in the future, it’s going to be a family decision. I'm glad that I'm here.”

Cora’s run in Boston has been memorable, filled with its share of ups and downs.

“This organization gave me a chance to become a big league manager in the fall of 2017. And then, more surprisingly and I take it by heart, after the suspension, they gave me a chance to come back right after that,” Cora said. “I appreciate that. I never thought I was going to be back managing as soon as I did after the mistake that I made. And for that, we appreciate that.

“This is family for us. We love it in Boston, but at the same time, we understand as a family how it works. It's a business and at the same time we're very happy where we’re at. So to answer your question, straightforward, no, it doesn't bother me.”

Does managing the Red Sox beyond ’24 appeal to Cora?

“I don't want to talk about that right now,” he said.

In fact, the freedom to make his own decision going forward sounds as if it is appealing to Cora, who admitted that managing in the pressure-cooker of Boston can be tough at times.

Cora acknowledged Tuesday that last season was particularly tough on him, which is why he went on a fitness kick over the offseason that has him looking notably trimmer.

“I'm running,” said Cora. “This morning I got up, I ran four [miles]. That's where I'm at. All joking aside, I felt awful, physically, last year. I felt awful health-wise, energy-wise. It was bad. I cannot let a game dictate who I am as a person, or what I have to do. I feel really good.”

It was, at the very least, interesting to hear Cora -- a soccer enthusiast -- reference a passage from a book by Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.

“I read Guardiola's book and he said that when you spend more than five or six years in one place, it can take a toll on you,” Cora said. “I think I got hit last year with that. I'm glad that I recognized that. I think the pictures and videos [showed] that, and a conversation with my mom, who actually was very honest when I got back home, she crushed me. And the last conversation we had before I got on the plane, she said, ‘You look great,’ and I said, ‘Thank you.’ It's not easy, man. Dealing with the media, dealing with players, the front office, the pressure of winning is not easy. It should be fun, and sometimes it's not.”

Even if Cora does find a less stressful environment going forward, he has already decided he’s not going to be one of those “lifer” managers. The 48-year-old Cora says he will be done writing out lineup cards before he is through his 50s.

“I'm not going to manage 10 more years, I'll tell you that,” Cora said. “I don't see myself being like Tito [Francona] or Tony [La Russa]. I've got two [6-year-old] boys, I've got a daughter who's a junior in college. There's more in life than baseball. This is a tough business.”

For the Red Sox, part of that business has been frequent changes in front-office leaders over the last decade. Dave Dombrowski, who now runs baseball operations for the Phillies, hired Cora to manage the Red Sox. Chaim Bloom, who was let go by the Sox after last season and is now in an advisor’s role with the Cardinals, re-hired Cora after his one-season suspension from MLB for his role in the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal. Now, Cora will work under chief baseball officer Craig Breslow for at least this one season.

How is that going so far?

“Good,” said Cora. “We’re getting to know each other. It's been, what, three months? Four months? I've been through this path before, working with somebody new. I'm very, very happy and excited about where we are at with our pitching group – the details, the information, the way we're going about our business. It’s been good so far.”

If this does wind up being Cora’s last chapter with the Red Sox, it will be well-chronicled by Netflix, as the streaming service announced last week it will follow Boston’s ’24 season from start to finish for a docuseries that will come out next year.

“From my end, I’ll talk to them,” Cora said. “There are certain times I’m going to say, ‘Not today.’ But most of the time we're going to be available and hopefully this is a story of a team that nobody gave a chance to win it and we can hoist a trophy at the end of October and have a great Halloween.”

Breslow was asked if it was awkward starting Spring Training with Cora going into the final year of his contract.

“I think it's as awkward as one makes it,” Breslow said. “I think Alex has been pretty outspoken about his comfort with the situation. Similarly, I've talked about how excited we are for him to manage this team. Any conversations that we have will take place between Alex and me, neither of us wants this to be a distraction. And I think so long as we can honor that, it doesn't have to be awkward.”