MLB Expert Analysis | Alex Cora 2020
Cora of course was Boston’s record in 2018 when the Red Sox were a juggernaut, winning 108 games and the World Series. Cora was the first rookie manager to win the World Series since Bob Brenly of the 2001 Diamondbacks. Cora then signed a three-year extension with an undisclosed increase from the original $800,000. The next year, the Sox slipped to 84-78 – sure, a disappointment but nothing that would get Cora fired.
However, the Red Sox and Cora decided it was best to mutually part ways in January due to the manager’s heavy involvement in the Astros’ sign-stealing operation. That story broke in January after former Houston pitcher Mike Fiers, now with the Oakland Athletics, blew the whistle on an elaborate but illegal Astros scheme to steal signs by electronic means.
When the results of the Astros’ investigation were announced on Jan. 13, MLB commissioner Manfred said at the time he was withholding discipline on Cora until he completed his sign-stealing investigation into the 2018 Red Sox.
Cora in April was suspended for the entirety of the 2020 MLB season “for his conduct as bench coach for the Houston Astros in 2017.” Manfred didn’t find Cora had committed any wrongdoing while the Red Sox manager. The league concluded advance scouting assistant J.T. Watkins was the key figure in Boston’s electronic sign stealing process
Boston named Ron Roenicke its interim manager for 2020 — Roenicke had been the Red Sox bench coach for the two seasons under Cora prior to the 2020 season. Alas, Roenicke was not set up with a team ready to compete this season as the Sox traded away superstar Mookie Betts to the Dodgers and lost top starting pitchers Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez to injuries/health reasons. Boston finished last in the AL East at 24-36, but ownership believes the team can contend again in 2021 and apparently there are no hard feelings with Cora.
Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said when announcing that Roenicke wouldn’t be back that there was no timetable for when he hoped to have a manager in place.
“Nothing specific,” Bloom said. “Obviously, I don’t think we want it to take longer than is necessary to get the best outcome. We haven’t put a specific timetable on it.”
Some other potential Red Sox candidates are Phillies executive Sam Fuld, Athletics quality control coach Mark Kotsay, former Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, Rays bench coach Matt Quataro (Bloom came to Boston from Tampa Bay) and Diamondbacks bench coach Luis Urueta.
Presumably, Cora would take the Red Sox job over Detroit’s because Boston is simply a better baseball town and ownership has shown in the past it would spend whatever it took. However, the Tigers are on the way up with some good young talent led by pitchers Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal. Detroit has a very good farm system overall. The Tigers went 23-35 this season, their fourth straight year with a sub-.400 winning percentage.
The Tigers are interested not just in Cora but also former Astros manager AJ Hinch, who also was suspended for all of 2020 for his role in the sign-stealing. According to MLB’s investigation, Hinch destroyed the monitor his players used to steal signs but didn’t speak out against Cora or his players to share his disapproval.
The Tigers are in the market for a replacement for manager Ron Gardenhire, who retired on Sept. 19 with a little more than a week left in the season.
Teams aren’t allowed to speak to either Cora or Hinch until their suspensions end at the conclusion of the World Series, but certainly teams could talk to their agents and have a wink-wink deal in place.
“The cheating scandal is not a good thing, obviously,” Tigers GM Al Avila said of Hinch and Cora. “They’re serving their suspensions, and once their suspensions are over, then they’ll be free to pursue their careers. So we have not eliminated anybody from our list at this point.”
Before the Tigers hired Gardenhire, their previous three managers had all spent time in the organization as players: Brad Ausmus, Jim Leyland and Alan Trammell. Two potential candidates who would fit the bill there are Don Kelly and Marcus Thames as both used to play for Detroit. Kelly spent this past season as bench coach of the Pirates and Thomas has been the Yankees’ big-league hitting coach for the past three seasons.
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