Alex Cora's first season

The Gray Eagle

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Gasper in the Glob with a preview of J. Álex Cora, Super-Genius, heading into his first season:

"The Red Sox feel like Cora, a first-time major league manager who only spent one season as a major league coach, will be the difference in 2018. He will be the one to change the Red Sox’ culture and the team’s results in the postseason, both of which have been disappointing and underwhelming the last two seasons, despite back-to-back American League East division titles.

Cora is supposed to be the change you can believe in on a Sox team that looks awfully similar to the one that flamed out last fall... Cora is charged with making the Red Sox a fun team to root for and a fun team to play for again. His maiden voyage as a Major League Baseball manager doesn’t come with a learning curve. It comes with a mandate to get the most out of a team that ownership and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski believe has all the tools to be baseball’s last team standing come the end of October."

Cora was also quoted in the Glob about tweaking the lineup and getting players enough rest:

"Cora plans to liberally use his bench and change the lineup based on ballpark dimensions on the road or the style of the opposing pitcher. He’s already planning when players will get days off in the first series of the season on the turf at Tropicana Field. “The more rest they get, the better they’ll be,” Cora said."

I am hoping we will see far less of banged up players trying to play through injuries and failing badly. Based on what he has said so far, it would be shocking to see Cora keep a guy with a broken toe in the lineup for over a month of horrendous hitting.

In February, Cora talked promisingly about resting players to keep them healthier:
"Cora knows it will be hard to convince some players to embrace the downtime, but had similar conversations with players as bench coach of the Houston Astros. "We will talk to them about it that's a conversation as a staff, medical staff and obviously the front office," Cora said Friday. "We'll sit down with them individually and talk about it. I know it's a hard conversation because I went through it last year but if they start buying into it, they will see the benefits of having off days."

Cora is happier with the infield defense than he was earlier:
"Cora said he’s pleased with Bogaerts after some adjustments led to a better tempo and improved first step. The 25-year-old has regressed defensively in recent seasons after a strong 2015 season...

Devers changed his pre-pitch routine to improve his timing. Like many infielders, Devers hops a bit as the ball is delivered. That helps square your feet to plate. Dustin Pedroia is an advocate of this. The problem was how Devers timed his hop. “The ball was getting to the hitting zone and he was in the air,” Cora said. “You have to have your feet on the ground, just like a sprinter. It got to the point where he was late and he was reacting late and he was always getting that in-between hop [on ground balls].” Cora said the adjustment should help Devers going to his backhand. “He’ll have that first quick step, cross over, and get it,” the manager said.

On Hanley: "“I’ve never seen a first baseman play so aggressively off the bag,” Cora said. “He’s way out there and he’s comfortable. That helps us out because we can adjust our defense. There are different defensive alignments, but if our first baseman is aggressive that way, it helps Eduardo because we can cover another lane.”

In yet another Glob article, Cora's good friend Ramon Vazquez will be the liaison between the analytics department and the players:

"Vazquez’s role, described by the Red Sox as “a liaison between the major league club’s advance scouting and statistical analysis efforts for the purpose of presenting information to players and coaches,” is a new one for Boston brass... Cora witnessed the value of such a role while serving as bench coach for the World Series champion Astros a season ago, and knew it was something he wanted to have here with Boston.
It’s one thing to gather the information from computers and spreadsheets, but it’s no surprise that players don’t always enjoy absorbing information that way. Having it go through Vazquez, a dedicated coach backed by nine years of major league experience with six teams, makes those factoids more palatable and resonant."
 
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santadevil

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I was watching 30 Clubs in 30 Days last night and caught the last half of the Red Sox one. Got to see some good tips from Vaz on catching, but they also spoke to Cora and I believe it was Al Leiter that said "Thanks for having us Skipper" and Cora immediately shot him down, saying that he doesn't like "Skip" or "Skipper". Not sure why that was interesting to me, but obviously he has a reason for it.
 
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Everything he’s doing sounds great but lets see how it translates to wins. He’s going to feel pressure with this team’s two year window to win a championship.
 

Van Everyman

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Thank god -- I was beginning to worry that we were three posts in and no one had put Cora on the hot seat yet.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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The "two year window" is a figment of the media's imagination. Despite the salary/luxury tax constraints now, this team has the wherewithal to continue contending past 2019 with its current core.
 

The_Powa_of_Seiji_Ozawa

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I was watching 30 Clubs in 30 Days last night and caught the last half of the Red Sox one. Got to see some good tips from Vaz on catching, but they also spoke to Cora and I believe it was Al Leiter that said "Thanks for having us Skipper" and Cora immediately shot him down, saying that he doesn't like "Skip" or "Skipper". Not sure why that was interesting to me, but obviously he has a reason for it.
He prefers the title "Genius"
 
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The "two year window" is a figment of the media's imagination. Despite the salary/luxury tax constraints now, this team has the wherewithal to continue contending past 2019 with its current core.
I agree that it has the potential but some key extensions need to get done to further that window.
 

gryoung

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Cora’s biggest challenge IMO will be dealing with some of the fragile personalities in the clubhouse. The inmates cannot run the asylum.

I’m confident he will be a positive influence with the younger players.

And then there’s Hanley at his required ABs to trigger the extension .......
 

cornwalls@6

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"Mr. Gasper? There's a J.D. Martinez on the line. Says he wants a word with you...he doesn't sound happy."
Exactly. Awfully similar except that they now have the one dimension they were arguably most lacking last year. Jesus, what lazy, bad writing by Gasper. The quotes from and about Cora are encouraging. I loved the hire, but there are always uncertainties. The unique pressures and environment of this market would no doubt be a major challenge for any first year manager. But the combination of his having played here, and his general personality and approach so far, makes me optimistic that he'll be equal to the task.
 

Sampo Gida

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I'm kind of tough on managers. So far I like what I have heard from Cora. That said, i remember how so many here (and the writers) were enamored over Bobby V in ST, a love affair that lasted well into the season. I was skeptical then but my judgement was affected by being so pissed off Tito was fired (practically turning me to the Yankees). I made my own call then as now, and Cora is off to a better start IMO. That said I was in the Farrell should be fired camp so may be biased.

I think he will have a better fate . ST is the honeymoon period for new managers though. He has yet to be tested. Stay tuned.
 

Sampo Gida

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The "two year window" is a figment of the media's imagination. Despite the salary/luxury tax constraints now, this team has the wherewithal to continue contending past 2019 with its current core.
The core they have past 2019 guaranteed is Betts, JBJ, Devers, grandpa Pedroia, Bennie, E-rod, Wright. Half of MLB teams have a better core.
 

Savin Hillbilly

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The core they have past 2019 guaranteed is Betts, JBJ, Devers, grandpa Pedroia, Bennie, E-rod, Wright. Half of MLB teams have a better core.
Even if that's true (and I'm not going to go through every team's contracts page on BBref right now to truth-test it) it's fundamentally misleading, because it ignores half of the "wherewithal" that RHF's point encompasses, i.e., payroll. The stripped-down (yet still pretty damn good) core you describe includes holes that will presumably be created by the departures of Bogaerts for his first crack at FA, Hanley, Moreland, Sale, Porcello, Pomeranz and Kimbrel because their contracts are up, and Price and JDM because they use their optouts. That's something like $140M/year in cleared payroll. You think the team is just going to sit on its hands and do nothing with it?
 
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Even if that's true (and I'm not going to go through every team's contracts page on BBref right now to truth-test it) it's fundamentally misleading, because it ignores half of the "wherewithal" that RHF's point encompasses, i.e., payroll. The stripped-down (yet still pretty damn good) core you describe includes holes that will presumably be created by the departures of Bogaerts for his first crack at FA, Hanley, Moreland, Sale, Porcello, Pomeranz and Kimbrel because their contracts are up, and Price and JDM because they use their optouts. That's something like $140M/year in cleared payroll. You think the team is just going to sit on its hands and do nothing with it?
No, but spending all of that in one offseason is neither wise nor feasible. I would, however, make Chris Sale a substantial offer.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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No, but spending all of that in one offseason is neither wise nor feasible. I would, however, make Chris Sale a substantial offer.
Who's saying they have to spend it all in one off-season? We're talking about two years from now. There can be trades, acquisitions, players breaking out, prospects rising, and who knows what else between now and then. My entire point was that it is beyond stupid to claim that there is only a two year window for this team. New players can be signed. Old players can be re-signed. The world doesn't end after the 2019 World Series.
 

bluefenderstrat

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I'm kind of tough on managers. So far I like what I have heard from Cora. That said, i remember how so many here (and the writers) were enamored over Bobby V in ST, a love affair that lasted well into the season. I was skeptical then but my judgement was affected by being so pissed off Tito was fired (practically turning me to the Yankees). I made my own call then as now, and Cora is off to a better start IMO. That said I was in the Farrell should be fired camp so may be biased.

I think he will have a better fate . ST is the honeymoon period for new managers though. He has yet to be tested. Stay tuned.
Nick Cafardo was probably the only person aside from Luchhino who was "enamored" with Bobby V. He was viewed with suspicion at best on SoSH from the day he was hired.
 

richgedman'sghost

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I'm kind of tough on managers. So far I like what I have heard from Cora. That said, i remember how so many here (and the writers) were enamored over Bobby V in ST, a love affair that lasted well into the season. I was skeptical then but my judgement was affected by being so pissed off Tito was fired (practically turning me to the Yankees). I made my own call then as now, and Cora is off to a better start IMO. That said I was in the Farrell should be fired camp so may be biased.

I think he will have a better fate . ST is the honeymoon period for new managers though. He has yet to be tested. Stay tuned.
If you think that SOSH "loved" the Bobby Valentine hiring you are sadly mistaken. I don't have the time or ability to go back to a thread that is six years old, but I would say with confidence that 65 to 70 of the members were against it. The only writer that fully and enthusiastically supported the hiring was Nick Carfardo which should tell you something.

Whatever support Valentine had started to evaporate in spring training when he criticized the veteran infielder over a misplayed infield drill. Bobby Valentine further lost the clubhouse when he made derogatory remarks about Youk during the Patriot's Day weekend games. In other words, your claim that Valentine had widespread support that lasted well into the season is mistaken.
 

Van Everyman

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Co-sign.

Pumpsie, IIRC, was the only member who vigorously supported the Bobby the Fifth hire – and unlike Cafardo, he actually had data to back up his reasons. But I’m not sure even he had much hope after Youkgate.

For my part, I think the one thing that Bobby was criminally underrated for (as a result of his ineptitude at most other aspects of the job) was his bullpen management. He really had a feel for when to pull guys and got a lot out of dreck like Matt Albers that year. Other than that tho...
 

Sampo Gida

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If you think that SOSH "loved" the Bobby Valentine hiring you are sadly mistaken. I don't have the time or ability to go back to a thread that is six years old, but I would say with confidence that 65 to 70 of the members were against it. The only writer that fully and enthusiastically supported the hiring was Nick Carfardo which should tell you something.

Whatever support Valentine had started to evaporate in spring training when he criticized the veteran infielder over a misplayed infield drill. Bobby Valentine further lost the clubhouse when he made derogatory remarks about Youk during the Patriot's Day weekend games. In other words, your claim that Valentine had widespread support that lasted well into the season is mistaken.
Well, my memory says otherwise. Seemed like every time I proposed he be fired in season in an attempt to turn things around I got slammed here. There were a few others opposed to Bobby V but they seemed in the minority (or maybe his deenders were more outspoke) . Most seemed to believe a tyrant was needed and that the players were the problem. As for the writers they pretty much all defended Bobby V for the teams poor performance . Pete Abraham admitted he sat on the Mike Aviles-Bobby V ST clash when it leaked later in the season. It was more about painting players as the bad guys following the chicken and beer season and conditioning fans for the sell. It was really only
heading into September when the sense was that management had decided to move on from Bobby V that the tide turned against Bobby V in the press and on SOSH

But maybe my memory is flawed. Thats possible
 

Maximus

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Very happy to see Farrell gone, not a fan. It seems Cora is personable and relates well to players and the media. He'll give players time off if they are hurt and rely on his bench since he was a bench player in his career.
 

mauidano

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To each his own opinion. On record as a Farrell fan.

That being said, obviously I hope Alex and the Sox are very successful and win it all. I cheer for the laundry.
 

geoduck no quahog

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...And then there’s Hanley at his required ABs to trigger the extension .......
I want the Red Sox to extend Hanley now. I've always though the AB issue had everything to do with health and nothing to do with performance (aren't performance clauses illegal anyway?). The guy's healthy - let him fulfill his contract without distraction. They signed him so play him.

At Bats (and pitching appearances) should only relate to DL stints, otherwise the manager, the player and the team are put into horrible situations.

Is there anyone who thinks a healthy Hanley won't meet the criteria? How bad would he have to be force the manager's hand into long stints on the bench? Pretty damn bad and certainly much worse than last year.

I'm obviously in the pro-Hanley camp.
 

In my lifetime

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I want the Red Sox to extend Hanley now. I've always though the AB issue had everything to do with health and nothing to do with performance (aren't performance clauses illegal anyway?). The guy's healthy - let him fulfill his contract without distraction. They signed him so play him.

At Bats (and pitching appearances) should only relate to DL stints, otherwise the manager, the player and the team are put into horrible situations.

Is there anyone who thinks a healthy Hanley won't meet the criteria? How bad would he have to be force the manager's hand into long stints on the bench? Pretty damn bad and certainly much worse than last year.

I'm obviously in the pro-Hanley camp.
What????
Why would any team consider that unless the vesting year is signed at a significant discount now ( like 7 MM)
1. The AB clause is not just health, its effectiveness too.
2. He has to remain healthy, which is far from a sure thing for any player.
3. Unless he hits significantly better than last year, the contract is a tremendous overpay.
4. Even if he had played up to his contract previously, it is not in the team's interest to vest the contract 9 months before they are required.

Then again, HRam stays healthy and manages better than a ~2.5 WAR then he deserves the contract to vest. But that issue is for Sept. not March.
 

DJnVa

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Well, my memory says otherwise. Seemed like every time I proposed he be fired in season in an attempt to turn things around I got slammed here. There were a few others opposed to Bobby V but they seemed in the minority (or maybe his deenders were more outspoke) . Most seemed to believe a tyrant was needed and that the players were the problem. As for the writers they pretty much all defended Bobby V for the teams poor performance . Pete Abraham admitted he sat on the Mike Aviles-Bobby V ST clash when it leaked later in the season. It was more about painting players as the bad guys following the chicken and beer season and conditioning fans for the sell. It was really only
heading into September when the sense was that management had decided to move on from Bobby V that the tide turned against Bobby V in the press and on SOSH

But maybe my memory is flawed. Thats possible

Your memory is wrong. Sentiment was easily 80-20 against him.
 

Reverend

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Well, my memory says otherwise. Seemed like every time I proposed he be fired in season in an attempt to turn things around I got slammed here. There were a few others opposed to Bobby V but they seemed in the minority (or maybe his deenders were more outspoke) . Most seemed to believe a tyrant was needed and that the players were the problem. As for the writers they pretty much all defended Bobby V for the teams poor performance . Pete Abraham admitted he sat on the Mike Aviles-Bobby V ST clash when it leaked later in the season. It was more about painting players as the bad guys following the chicken and beer season and conditioning fans for the sell. It was really only
heading into September when the sense was that management had decided to move on from Bobby V that the tide turned against Bobby V in the press and on SOSH

But maybe my memory is flawed. Thats possible
Your memory is wrong. Sentiment was easily 80-20 against him.
In my own experience, not knowing much about Valentine myself (I have no head for names and haven't known the whole league since I traded invested in baseball cards in my youth.), I relied heavily on the board for my knowledge and expectations.

I became rapidly convinced Valentine would be a disaster. The eeriest part was how accurate the board was with respect to precisely how he turned out to be a disaster.

The Youk thing stands out as a, holy shit, these guys were right, moment, but I would defer to @Smiling Joe Hesketh to explain, should he deign to, as he was dead to rights on the guy from jump.
 

BaseballJones

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His first spring was a rousing success.
Indeed. It's just spring training, and the Sox seemed to throw out their "regular" lineup a fair amount - more than I can remember them doing, though that may just be faulty memory on my part - but it was a very good spring. Some things I'm happy about:

- Benintendi: .386, 4 hr. The kid is a freaking good baseball player.
- Bogaerts' improved power. Just seemed to hit the ball harder.
- Betts bouncing back after a horrific start to the spring, ending up with a .340 mark.
- Sale not being seriously injured after the line drive.
- Price pitching very well.
- Travis showing real power. I don't know what they're gonna do with him but I think he can play.
- Swihart. What a nice showing this spring.
- Brian Johnson - Big league pitcher finally?

I don't like the fact that opening day is three days away and when I woke up this morning, it was 23 degrees at my house.
 

lexrageorge

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IIRC, during Valentine's spring training, there wasn't a lot of evidence of what was about to come. There were quite a few people on this board (rightfully, as it turns out) against his hiring. He outlawed beer from the home clubhouse, but that was going to happen Valentine or no Valentine. He may have irked Joe Girardi some, but noone should have really cared about that. He said some things that got some folks radar up, so the warning signs were there, but definitely not conclusive either.

Schilling made some comments on ESPN about Valentine and disorder in the clubhouse, which Beckett angrily shot down. Francona also made some critical comments, and he likely had some first hand info, but I cannot recall the nature of those comments.

Then came the comments about Youkilis, and from that point Valentine lost both the clubhouse and this board. It was at that point it was obvious to all that the wheels were quickly coming off. It wasn't until much later that the news came out about Mike Aviles, and how Valentine basically flipped off or ignored most of his coaching staff during spring training.
 

shaggydog2000

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IIRC, during Valentine's spring training, there wasn't a lot of evidence of what was about to come. There were quite a few people on this board (rightfully, as it turns out) against his hiring. He outlawed beer from the home clubhouse, but that was going to happen Valentine or no Valentine. He may have irked Joe Girardi some, but noone should have really cared about that. He said some things that got some folks radar up, so the warning signs were there, but definitely not conclusive either.

Schilling made some comments on ESPN about Valentine and disorder in the clubhouse, which Beckett angrily shot down. Francona also made some critical comments, and he likely had some first hand info, but I cannot recall the nature of those comments.

Then came the comments about Youkilis, and from that point Valentine lost both the clubhouse and this board. It was at that point it was obvious to all that the wheels were quickly coming off. It wasn't until much later that the news came out about Mike Aviles, and how Valentine basically flipped off or ignored most of his coaching staff during spring training.
I remember assertions that he invented the wrap sandwich. And everyone making fun of him for the getting kicked out of the game and wearing the disguise.
 

Sam Ray Not

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Spring OPS (min. 35 AB)

1.224 Beni
1.106 Betts (after an ice-cold start that seemed to have a few concerned)
1.047 Bogaerts
1.007 Vaz
.974 DeJesus Jr.
.948 Travis
.933 Devers
.881 Holt
.832 Swihart
.827 Moreland
.819 Castillo
.778 JDM
.682 Hanley
.529 JBJ

Looking pretty, prettay, prettayyy good, overall.
 
Feb 6, 2018
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Spring OPS (min. 35 AB)

1.224 Beni
1.106 Betts (after an ice-cold start that seemed to have a few concerned)
1.047 Bogaerts
1.007 Vaz
.974 DeJesus Jr.
.948 Travis
.933 Devers
.881 Holt
.832 Swihart
.827 Moreland
.819 Castillo
.778 JDM
.682 Hanley
.529 JBJ

Looking pretty, prettay, prettayyy good, overall.
With JDM .300 points lower than where he will be this season
 
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Dewey'sCannon

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I was wondering who is likely to sit for the two games in Miami without the DH. Although ST numbers really don't mean anything, from watching the games it looks like JBJ has yet to get it going with the bat, especially as compared to Beni. which leads me to think that unless that changes over the next week, then we'll likely see an OF of JD, Mookie and Beni for those two games. I went to look to try to see who would be starting those two games for the Fish, but it looks like it's completely up in the air, although the second game would probably be their Opening Day starter, Jose Urena, who's the only one it seems they've announce, since Straily is going to start the year on the DL with a forearm strain. Their rotation is really a mess.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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I was wondering who is likely to sit for the two games in Miami without the DH. Although ST numbers really don't mean anything, from watching the games it looks like JBJ has yet to get it going with the bat, especially as compared to Beni. which leads me to think that unless that changes over the next week, then we'll likely see an OF of JD, Mookie and Beni for those two games. I went to look to try to see who would be starting those two games for the Fish, but it looks like it's completely up in the air, although the second game would probably be their Opening Day starter, Jose Urena, who's the only one it seems they've announce, since Straily is going to start the year on the DL with a forearm strain. Their rotation is really a mess.
Martinez will probably start one of the two games in Miami, but not both unless they sit Bradley one day and Benintendi the other. Very much doubt they'll sit JBJ for three straight days (including the off day Wednesday) just based on a small sampling in spring training.
 

trekfan55

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I was one who wanted to like Bobby V. There were some indiocations that thebguy was prepared and was a good baseball guy. He led a team in Japan to the Championship for like the first time (not sure about the details but it was a feat from what I read) and led the 2000 Mets to the WS with a team that had no business getting there.

Then there was the whole Bard issue, it seems he was against making him a starter and it does appear that he was right. He also had to make do with a bullpen that lost its desgnated closer in Spring Training. Yes, he had a good feel for handling pitchers (except the whole "check the look in his eyes" thing).

But he lost the clubhouse early and not only made no effort to recover, he dug a deeper hole (his "good game, good effort" remark comes to mind). And then we found out that he threw Big Papi under the bus. At the end of the day it's not entirely his fault the 2012 team ended in last place, especially since the Punto Trade got rid of key players at the end. But he was absolutely the wrong hire and the wrong man. Good riddance.
 

DJnVa

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I didn't love the Bobby V idea, but I didn't think any of the other options under consideration were much better.

Anyone remember the other names discussed?
Valentine, Sveum, Gene Lamont, Lovullo, and I think there was one more.
 

JimD

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Alex Speier did an in-depth piece last Friday about Cora's impact in the clubhouse and some of the changes he's instituted. A couple stood out to me:

In their work this spring, the Red Sox are also taking on-field measures to try to maximize their players’ productivity during the season. Cora compressed the team’s schedule on the back fields, seeking more focused, higher-energy work for briefer periods of time. He’s not focused on optics — he’s fine with untucked practice jerseys, and lets players play music on speakers next to the batting cage — but expects work to show focus, an expectation made clearer by his on-field, hands-on work with players.

“I learned a lot last year,’’ said Cora. “The feedback they gave me, they like intensity but they don’t like the length. We take groundballs for 10 minutes but they have to do it right. If not, we’ll do it the next time for 12 minutes. You keep them fresh but at the same time sharp to be ready for the season.”
Yet while the different ways of seeing the game can clutter a player’s mind, Cora hopes to create an environment that allows players “to disconnect from the game” when it’s over — particularly after a 2017 season in which young Red Sox players acknowledged they struggled to have fun and often carried a weight away from the field.

...

Cora wants his players to celebrate possibility — to take joy in winning as part of a broader purpose. While some managers emphasize process over ultimate ambitions, Cora makes no secret of what he considers the team’s goals or potential, frequently and almost off-handedly reminding his players he believes they’re preparing to compete for a championship and that they should have fun doing so.

“Walk around like that. Talk about it,” said Cora. “We play in a city that, 93 wins is not enough. This is where we’re at. We can’t hide it. If you don’t embrace it, it’s going to be tough for you. Go ahead and embrace it, do your best, and we’ll see where we’re at in November.”
https://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/redsox/2018/03/23/alex-cora-has-already-changed-red-sox-culture/MpMBUvSJUFPv6HPv5httqM/story.html

Nothing is guaranteed, of course, but I feel really good about this club right now. I think Cora is exactly what they needed after the Farrell regime.