Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |
In Game 1 of the 2018 American League division series at Fenway Park, Red Sox manager Alex Cora pulled a veteran move, summoning scheduled Game 3 starter Rick Porcello for two huge outs in the eighth inning.
But Cora was no veteran, at least not in that role. He was a first-year manager, trusting his instincts and his reading of the game's flow. The gambit worked, and Porcello was the hero of a key win over the Yankees.
This was but one of many examples of how from his first year on the job Cora was among the game's elite managers. He was one of the few who could integrate analytics-based game planning without ignoring his instincts.
Nothing about Cora's performance suggested inexperiece; leaning on a dugout step, chewing sunflower seeds, he looked like he'd been doing it for years.
And then, when the Astros scandal rocked baseball, he was suddenly gone.
For months, it has been known and reported that MLB's report on the Red Sox' sign stealing in 2018 would not be nearly as inflammatory as the one about Houston.
Like many teams of the era, Boston used its replay review room to decode sign sequences. Signs were then passed to the dugout, and from the dugout to a runner on second base. The runner would then relay a sign to the batter.
This was illegal. But it was nowhere near what the Astros did, passing signs directly to batters with no one on base. Cora was deeply involved in that, and he's paying for it with a suspension that will take him through the end of the 2020 postseason.
Now the league has actually published the Red Sox details, adding that Cora was not an active participant in the Boston cheating. One of the clearest takeaways is that Cora will return as an MLB manager, perhaps even for the Red Sox. He's simply too good at the job.
After parting ways with Cora in January, the Red Sox named his bench coach, Ron Roenicke, interim manager. With the report out, Roenicke will now lose the interim tag. He's the manager of the team, and the front office will support him.
But there's no denying that Cora maintains strong relationships with the club. Team officials were deeply grateful for the way he handled his exit. After MLB issued its report on the Astros, Cora told ownership that he would be a distraction, and should step aside for the sake of the team.
Some in the Boston media mocked the announcement claiming that Cora and the team had "mutually agreed to part ways," but it really did play out that way. Cora fell on the sword, and the front office, from chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom to president Sam Kennedy, appreciated it.
Cora already had deep roots with the franchise -- he was once mentor to a young Dustin Pedroia, after all -- and his handling of the Astros scandal only increased his standing inside Fenway Park.
After trading Mookie Betts and David Price, the Red Sox made clear that they were punting on the season anyway. It's not hard to imagine Cora returning as soon as next year.
That's speculation, of course. But we would be shocked if Cora does not find an opportunity to manage somewhere, and before too many years pass. He was already on his way to becoming one of the best in the league.