Alex Cora: The Road Back to the Boston Red Sox

Alex Cora

On Friday morning the Boston Red Sox announced the signing of former manager Alex Cora for the 2021 season. Cora and the team agreed to “mutually part ways” ahead of the 2020 season due to Cora’s involvement in the 2017 Houston Astros sign-stealing investigation. This announcement has been a long time coming for Red Sox Nation. Many suspected Fenway Sports Group had been keeping Cora in their back pocket since they parted ways about 10 months ago. That day has finally come and with all the evidence laid out on the table. This is something you could see coming from a mile away.

Sides “Mutually Part Ways” in January

On Jan. 14 2020 the Red Sox and Cora announced they were going to “mutually part ways”. This wording here is important. Part-owner Sam Kennedy was sure to emphasize this phrase a multitude of times throughout the lengthy press conference. Cora was not fired nor did he quit. The two sides agreed to part ways which were made very clear to the media. Cora also made this wording deliberately clear in the statement released from his side at the time.

“We agreed today that parting ways was the best thing for the organization,” Cora explained. “I do not want to be a distraction to the Red Sox as they move forward.”

The timing of this decision also plays a key role in the trail leading Cora back to Boston. The parting of ways took place following the punishment that came down from the Astros investigation. The Commissioner’s ruling painted Cora as the ring leader of the operation. He was subsequently suspended for the 2020 season. At this point, the Red Sox and their actions in 2018 hadn’t seen a ruling from Commissioner Rob Manfred. This left ownership an easy out. They could now make the case the decision was solely based on his actions in Houston.

Cora Clean in Commissioners Report

As previously mentioned, Cora shouldered much of the blame from his time in Houston. Contrary to that, the Commissioner’s report regarding the 2018 Red Sox sign-stealing incident essentially wiped Cora’s name clean. The report reads that the Red Sox video replay operator, J.T. Watkins was the main culprit in the 2018 season.

Manfred writes, “I do not find that then-Manager Alex Cora, the Red Sox coaching staff, the Red Sox front office, or most of the players on the 2018 Red Sox knew or should have known that Watkins was utilizing in-game video to update the information that he had learned from his pregame analysis. Communication of these violations was episodic and isolated to Watkins and a limited number of Red Sox players only.”

Cora made it out clean with the league in regards to the Red Sox, making ownership’s decision to bring back the World Series champion even easier.

Cora’s Case to Return

During his time as manager, it was well-document how much the ownership group and the team’s star players like Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers connected with the former infielder. This, supplemented with the civility between ownership and Cora when they parted ways, and the fact that Cora was found clean in 2018 made an easy road for the organization to take another look at him once they found themselves with an opening at manager this offseason.

There was one more domino that seemed like it had to fall before the Red Sox could bring back their guy with a clean conscience.  That domino was A.J. Hinch. The manager of that 2017 Astros team who also received a year-long suspension found himself in a similar situation as Cora. Hinch immediately received interest from teams with vacancies at manager and took the job managing the Detroit Tigers. A plan that fans began to sniff out in January was finally coming to fruition.

Red Sox Immediately Contact Cora

Cora’s suspension timed out last Tuesday night when the Los Angeles Dodgers took down the Tampa Bay Rays in game six of the World Series. The Red Sox wasted no time getting in contact with the 2018 Manager of the Year finalist; the front office began communication with Cora that night. Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom and General Manager Brian O’Halloran met with Cora in person on Friday of last week. The team’s “top decision-makers”, according to Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com, also flew to Cora’s home country of Puerto Rico to meet with him about the opening.

When it came down to make the final decision, the finalists were Alex Cora and former outfielder Sam Fuld. It is believed that Cora was the choice of ownership, but Fuld seemed to be the choice from Bloom. While it certainly played in Cora’s favor that he was the only candidate with managerial experience, it seemed like ownership took control on this one. The group’s track record of having Bloom trade Mookie Betts a year ago could’ve bled through again when they chose the manager this time around.

Nonetheless, the Red Sox found their guy after an ugly 2020 season. Although it’s been a long and complicated road back for Alex Cora, the team and fans have something to look forward to after watching the fourth-worst team in baseball this season.

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