Inside Alex Cora’s Red Sox ‘culture change’ — Chemistry, competition, camaraderie (the 2024 manager thread)

soxhop411

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The Athletic (Jen McCaffrey) just posted a long but extremely interesting story About how Cora is hoping to change the culture around the team, which pretty much started right after the last out was recorded for the Sox in 2023



On the final day of last season in Baltimore, Red Sox manager Alex Cora sat on the bench in the visitors dugout at Camden Yards — his team on its way to a second consecutive last place finish — and offered candid introspection. He’d recently learned he’d be returning as manager in 2024 despite a front office change, but he realized what he’d done in the past wasn’t enough.
“I have to be better,” he said on Oct. 1. “I have to improve. The vote of confidence is great but what are we doing, what am I doing to put these guys in a situation to be successful? I’ve got to be realistic. I feel like I haven’t done my job the last few years. I have to improve in a lot of things.”

Cora began sowing the seeds of change over the offseason.

One of the early steps was simple: A series of Zoom calls to maintain a connection with his team throughout the winter. Cora hosted calls with his players once a month — just the manager, his pitchers and position players, no coaches or front office members. The calls lasted roughly 20 minutes, aimed at keeping the group unified amid a winter of turnover and departures, not only in the front office, but on the roster and coaching staff. Justin Turner, a clubhouse leader, was gone. Chris Sale, a veteran voice on the pitching staff, had been traded.

A few players spoke on the calls, but it was mostly Cora with a clear, consistent message: The outside predictions for the club might be bleak, but he was serious about changing things in 2024. Be ready for a different kind of spring training.

It was a noticeable departure from previous winters.

“I’ve never had that many Zoom calls in the offseason,” Nick Pivetta said. “But I think it’s important, it makes every individual feel that they’re part of something.”

“It was pretty much AC just checking in on the group and kind of keeping everybody on the same page, setting the tone for coming into the spring,” said Trevor Story.

“It was a very candid, open conversation,” Garrett Whitlock added.

Each of the last two seasons, the Red Sox were within three games of a playoff spot at the trade deadline, before falling off the map in the second half. Sure they could have used a few outside reinforcements that never came, but regardless, Cora felt responsible.
https://theathletic.com/5367599/2024/03/27/red-sox-alex-cora-culture-change/

More at the link above. The entire article is worth a read
 

Rovin Romine

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Well, that's good to read. While not a fan of Cora, I do think he's has the capability to effectively manage the team - hopefully to a competitive year that will surprise the pundits. And I think we've seen indications thusfar. I wish him well.
 

nattysez

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I encourage people to read the article, because my reaction to the excerpt was "I really hope Cora doesn't think he's ushered in some kind of radical new era in clubhouse management through 4 Zoom calls," but that's more McCaffrey's narrative hook for the article rather than what Cora is thinking.

That said, the article is kind of the manager version of "he spent the off-season working out and is in the best shape of his life," but we'll see.
 

trekfan55

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The Athletic (Jen McCaffrey) just posted a long but extremely interesting story About how Cora is hoping to change the culture around the team, which pretty much started right after the last out was recorded for the Sox in 2023






https://theathletic.com/5367599/2024/03/27/red-sox-alex-cora-culture-change/

More at the link above. The entire article is worth a read
Hit a Paywall.

Edit: Nevermind, it´s included with the NYT subscription. One I want to cancel but have not for some reason.
 
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Max Power

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I encourage people to read the article, because my reaction to the excerpt was "I really hope Cora doesn't think he's ushered in some kind of radical new era in clubhouse management through 4 Zoom calls," but that's more McCaffrey's narrative hook for the article rather than what Cora is thinking.

That said, the article is kind of the manager version of "he spent the off-season working out and is in the best shape of his life," but we'll see.
The article did actually mention that Cora dropped 30 pounds and is in much better shape than last year.
 

soxhop411

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Also, I may be reading too much into the story, but that seems like a lot of effort for Cora to put in for someone who supposedly has 1 foot out the door already..
 

chrisfont9

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I encourage people to read the article, because my reaction to the excerpt was "I really hope Cora doesn't think he's ushered in some kind of radical new era in clubhouse management through 4 Zoom calls," but that's more McCaffrey's narrative hook for the article rather than what Cora is thinking.

That said, the article is kind of the manager version of "he spent the off-season working out and is in the best shape of his life," but we'll see.
Yeah, basically agree. They did come out competing in spring training. Whether that translates is tbd, but it can't hurt. I feel like this was something we saw previously, maybe 2018? Also the core is a bit more certain and ready, so hopefully they just have a bit more of an identity.
 

chrisfont9

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Not if you're looking at this season as an audition for future employment.
Not sure why this narrative is out there other than people catastrophizing everything. Wasn't the big hangup with the GM hiring process somehow tied to ownership wanting Cora to move up the chain? McCaffrey's article points out that he doesn't want to manage forever. So the idea that he's in a hurry to ditch this group so he can manage more seems like pure speculation.
 

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Yeah, basically agree. They did come out competing in spring training. Whether that translates is tbd, but it can't hurt. I feel like this was something we saw previously, maybe 2018? Also the core is a bit more certain and ready, so hopefully they just have a bit more of an identity.
Yes, 2018. He was very clear that he wanted to instill a culture of winning right from the start. Worked well that year.
 

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Not sure why this narrative is out there other than people catastrophizing everything.
Well, I certainly don't think it would be a catastrophe if Cora moved on (up, over, or out) and the Sox hired someone to replace him. I also don't think it would be a catastrophe if he has a great season here and is renewed. Sorta. . .no-urgency Cora is to be avoided. But he seems to be on track this year, and I'll take that.
 

joe dokes

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Reading (probably way too much) between the lines and engaging in serious psychobabble: The comment about "3 games out at the deadline both years and no changes" strikes me as coming from Cora. But -- and *not* to his credit -- I think he sorta gave up a bit after it happened last year. Maybe not intentionally, but his weight gain was pretty obvious. I'm not sure it got to the level of "not caring," but maybe a bit helpless? Maybe getting in better shape was his way of trying to regain control of the *whole* situation, both himself and the team, in addition to whatever message it sent.
As no famous psychologist has ever said, "Having no fucks to give is not the same as not giving a shit."

I hope it helps all concerned. It's not football, where he's trying to get players to run through brick walls, but the manager's attitude and attention to detail is an example-setter.
 

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As an aside, Jen McCaffrey has been bringing it this spring. She’s becoming, along with Alex Speier, my must-read Red Sox reporter. I’ve followed her since she was at Mass Live and am so impressed.
 

sezwho

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As an aside, Jen McCaffrey has been bringing it this spring. She’s becoming, along with Alex Speier, my must-read Red Sox reporter. I’ve followed her since she was at Mass Live and am so impressed.
Agreed, keeps ringing the bell.

There was explicit mention from Breslow about player specific goals and training programs…not just rolling the balls out there and hitting fungos. I took that as pretty heavy criticism of both Bloom and Cora, but maybe Cora was already shifting his approach (or maybe he’s course correcting/CYA).
 

YTF

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Apologies for bungling the quote function. @chrisfont9 posted....
Not sure why this narrative is out there other than people catastrophizing everything. Wasn't the big hangup with the GM hiring process somehow tied to ownership wanting Cora to move up the chain? McCaffrey's article points out that he doesn't want to manage forever. So the idea that he's in a hurry to ditch this group so he can manage more seems like pure speculation.

@chrisfont9 I'm not sure if this in response to my post or not, but Cora's contract is expiring and AFAIK there's been no extension talk. If a FO job isn't in the cards I'm guessing that he doesn't walk away from the game. Perhaps he might take a year off, but if he's looking to keep employment at the big league level, challenging himself and his team to be better is a smart move. This team has looked very undisciplined for a fair amount of the past couple of seasons. Yes Cora can only use the players available to him, but a lot of this team's issues over these last two years are due to sloppy play, poor fundamentals and shitty base running. We've had past discussions about how culpable Cora may be for these deficiencies and some of us have been critical of him for some of this poor play. Cora himself has acknowledged that he can indeed be a better leader. I think getting that message out there and any positive results from him actually making good on his statement definitely bodes better for him than managing like a lame duck manager.
 
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shanks

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rare poster, long time reader here.

i’ve watched just about as many games as possible this spring (b/c…baseball) but i’ve been noticing/thinking that there is definitely a different, more collaborative tone so far. i e thought with breslow bring in bailey that cora has definitely adjusted to a listening to more voices re: the new pitching program. he’s either bought into a new way of managing, or conversely, treading water on his way out. personally, i love the new open collaborations and liking the new team attitude.
 

nattysez

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"The only thing I can say is that it feels good. It feels really good," Cora said. "There was a lot of uncertainty coming in, a lot of question marks. Obviously, people are going to question who we are when the season starts, but as far as in the clubhouse and how we’re going about our business … It’s been solid, man. It’s been solid. Athleticism and youth helps. I think that’s something we have. ... In the meetings of sending people down, a lot of guys mentioned that. Hey man, the vibe is real. It’s not fake. If they give trophies for vibes, we’re up there."
Narrator: They do not, in fact, give out trophies for vibes.


https://www.audacy.com/weei/sports/red-sox/the-red-sox-one-month-after-rafael-devers-proclamation?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter
 

chrisfont9

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This might be misplaced, but there are a couple parts in here that seem like they belong in the Cora thread:
1) The team threw a beer shower for Breslow after opening night; and
2) Breslow talked about working with Cora, in rather glowing terms.

https://www.mlb.com/news/craig-breslow-red-sox-opening-day-2024-beer-shower

The beer shower part is super interesting. Doe POBO's hang with the players much? I was a little concerned about Devers' comments before the season about how they need more guys, but this suggests there's mostly unity behind the scenes, which is great.

Also unless it's just insincere happy talk, it strongly suggests that a Cora extension will be discussed. Whether AC wants it, who knows.
 

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This might be misplaced, but there are a couple parts in here that seem like they belong in the Cora thread:
1) The team threw a beer shower for Breslow after opening night; and
2) Breslow talked about working with Cora, in rather glowing terms.

https://www.mlb.com/news/craig-breslow-red-sox-opening-day-2024-beer-shower

The beer shower part is super interesting. Doe POBO's hang with the players much? I was a little concerned about Devers' comments before the season about how they need more guys, but this suggests there's mostly unity behind the scenes, which is great.

Also unless it's just insincere happy talk, it strongly suggests that a Cora extension will be discussed. Whether AC wants it, who knows.
I really can't recall anything like it, and to me it suggests only positive things about the team's cohesion and how they view themselves.

As for Cora, the man did change his managerial tendencies last year. This year, it seems like he's fully on board with the Breslow/Bailey plan, and made off-season efforts that were new for him.

So he can evolve as a manager, and perhaps those changes (and any success that comes from them) will change his subjective view of managing.
 

chrisfont9

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I really can't recall anything like it, and to me it suggests only positive things about the team's cohesion and how they view themselves.

As for Cora, the man did change his managerial tendencies last year. This year, it seems like he's fully on board with the Breslow/Bailey plan, and made off-season efforts that were new for him.

So he can evolve as a manager, and perhaps those changes (and any success that comes from them) will change his subjective view of managing.
It's always hard to know what's in the black box, but it sure looks like there is more of a certain plan with buy-in across all managerial levels (field and up). If we are to believe that Cora and ownership have this deep tie and future plan, it sounds like the PBO hire was maybe meant to fit in that structure? That would also explain why so few outsiders were willing to take the job -- just a unique situation that needed the right person, someone they all knew already, which seems to be the case with Breslow. If nothing else, it seems clear that Chaim didn't foster the same cohesion, to put it maybe very very mildly.
 

HfxBob

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This might be misplaced, but there are a couple parts in here that seem like they belong in the Cora thread:
1) The team threw a beer shower for Breslow after opening night; and
2) Breslow talked about working with Cora, in rather glowing terms.

https://www.mlb.com/news/craig-breslow-red-sox-opening-day-2024-beer-shower

The beer shower part is super interesting. Doe POBO's hang with the players much? I was a little concerned about Devers' comments before the season about how they need more guys, but this suggests there's mostly unity behind the scenes, which is great.

Also unless it's just insincere happy talk, it strongly suggests that a Cora extension will be discussed. Whether AC wants it, who knows.
I would think he does want it, especially with a lot of things looking up for the team right now, and with Breslow and Bailey looking like they really know what they're doing.
 
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Sin Duda

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And if we think of this from our own perspective (if we work for someone else), if top management told us that the company lost significant money 3 of the last 4 years, I think most or all of us, whether management or individual contributor, would be willing to try something new. I don't see it as anything more than that. Breslow's hire is like a good individual who moved on to another company, got promoted a couple times up to VP, and was brought back as President/CEO.
 

bosockboy

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Lot of props to Cora and Bailey for blocking out a disastrous offseason for the front office and getting the team focused and cohesive on the field. They are engaged and playing hard.
 

Cassvt2023

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Cora must have one foot out the door more than ever right about now. Ownership left this team so shallow that he is being forced to play journeymen and AAA players at key positions 2 weeks into the season. Injuries are inevitable but there needs to be a plan in place when they happen. If they won't go get someone to replace Story who can man short competently, he should consider resigning.
 

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Cora must have one foot out the door more than ever right about now. Ownership left this team so shallow that he is being forced to play journeymen and AAA players at key positions 2 weeks into the season. Injuries are inevitable but there needs to be a plan in place when they happen. If they won't go get someone to replace Story who can man short competently, he should consider resigning.
Ownership would love for him to do that, they won’t have to pay him.
 

simplicio

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Cora must have one foot out the door more than ever right about now. Ownership left this team so shallow that he is being forced to play journeymen and AAA players at key positions 2 weeks into the season. Injuries are inevitable but there needs to be a plan in place when they happen. If they won't go get someone to replace Story who can man short competently, he should consider resigning.
Is this the "If I were Cora" thread? None of things you say here are in evidence.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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Cora must have one foot out the door more than ever right about now. Ownership left this team so shallow that he is being forced to play journeymen and AAA players at key positions 2 weeks into the season. Injuries are inevitable but there needs to be a plan in place when they happen. If they won't go get someone to replace Story who can man short competently, he should consider resigning.
This seems a bit exaggerated. Teams don't generally have MLB caliber starters stashed at AAA just in case, which is what you'd need to have to avoid "journeyman and AAA players" pressed into service when four infielders (three expected starters) are either on the IL or potentially headed that way at the same time. Would the Dodgers not be in a similar position if Lux and Betts were in the IL with Muncy and Kike ailing and unable to play?
 

simplicio

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I figure it's worth dragging the Cora thread back to life after some time in season.

I've always felt generally positive, but ultimately pretty ambivalent about him as a manager. Reports have always been that he's good with the players, and having a native Spanish speaker in the role is a huge positive. His winning teams have certainly seemed fun, but I'm not certain that culture carried over to the last two years when the friction grew visible. His in-game moves haven't ever struck me as an obvious net positive or negative.

But this year feels different. It may be the presence of two shiny new Swiss army knives in Rafa and Romy, but Cora suddenly seems way more dialed in and proactive in his managing (is it a coincidence that his three winning seasons have coincided with positive contributions from superutility guys in Holt and Kiké?). He's using the whole bench on multiple occasions and getting creative with his defensive alignments.

He's continued to be publicly straightforward about bad play, and I think that's a change for him this season too. Maybe it's cause he's got young guys who have come through their growing pains and they're reaching the point where it's fair to hold them accountable for living up to their potential. It's a new look though and I like it.

Is this contract year Cora? Is he reinspired by getting better tools from Breslow than he did from Bloom? I have no idea, but prior to this year I'd have been fine with him coming back but not crushed if he left. Now I'm really hoping Breslow wants to rehire him.
 

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I figure it's worth dragging the Cora thread back to life after some time in season.

I've always felt generally positive, but ultimately pretty ambivalent about him as a manager. Reports have always been that he's good with the players, and having a native Spanish speaker in the role is a huge positive. His winning teams have certainly seemed fun, but I'm not certain that culture carried over to the last two years when the friction grew visible. His in-game moves haven't ever struck me as an obvious net positive or negative.

But this year feels different. It may be the presence of two shiny new Swiss army knives in Rafa and Romy, but Cora suddenly seems way more dialed in and proactive in his managing (is it a coincidence that his three winning seasons have coincided with positive contributions from superutility guys in Holt and Kiké?). He's using the whole bench on multiple occasions and getting creative with his defensive alignments.

He's continued to be publicly straightforward about bad play, and I think that's a change for him this season too. Maybe it's cause he's got young guys who have come through their growing pains and they're reaching the point where it's fair to hold them accountable for living up to their potential. It's a new look though and I like it.

Is this contract year Cora? Is he reinspired by getting better tools from Breslow than he did from Bloom? I have no idea, but prior to this year I'd have been fine with him coming back but not crushed if he left. Now I'm really hoping Breslow wants to rehire him.
Cora's game handling really started changing last year: https://www.baseball-reference.com/managers/coraal01.shtml

This year continues most of the trend lines, except pinch running. Probably because many of the faster players are starters.

He certainly seems more engaged than 22-23. As I said upthread, I'll take it. It's really the no-urgency-Cora that most has to be avoided.
 

simplicio

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Interesting, didn't know that was a resource. Does bbref have a current year manager leaderboard? Their interface sucks.
 

donutogre

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Given how well the team is performing in spite of the insane rash of injuries, this campaign is definitely another point in favor of Cora. I feel like the last few weeks especially we've seen the team focused and making good plays. The early season sloppiness (that was an obvious extension of what was going on the last two seasons) is clearing up!
 

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Honest question: how do the "But He's a Cheater" crowd view him these days?

I hadn't thought of "Engaged Cora" vs. "Disengaged Cora" before but I agree with most of what @simplicio says. The last two years (maybe 3) I have been less than thrilled with the team's defensive mistakes -- but I'm not 100% sure how much of it was on him versus other factors. But he's been great this season.
 

Rovin Romine

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Honest question: how do the "But He's a Cheater" crowd view him these days?

I hadn't thought of "Engaged Cora" vs. "Disengaged Cora" before but I agree with most of what @simplicio says. The last two years (maybe 3) I have been less than thrilled with the team's defensive mistakes -- but I'm not 100% sure how much of it was on him versus other factors. But he's been great this season.
People make mistakes. Unfortunately that was such a doozy he had zero slack going forward, and I thought he'd be a distraction with all the other NE cheating scandals. But he's been back in the game for 3.5 years now with no blips, so I'm more optimistic than I was.

+1. There are some people out there who believe he is the best manager in the game. This years performance is a pretty decent example.
He's got his pros and cons. When a team is clicking, he's probably an excellent choice. But he's been slow in his managerial career to adapt and address problems, and his teams are often fundamentally flawed. This year is an exception, not a decent example of his baseline.

That said, I absolutely hope the exception continues and so becomes his new baseline. If he gets them to the post-season this year, I wouldn't object to his being extended. (Or even if he gets them close but they're derailed by injuries.) However, if the team quits on him like it did at the close of 2023, I think his time is over.
 

Ale Xander

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Cora's game handling really started changing last year: https://www.baseball-reference.com/managers/coraal01.shtml

This year continues most of the trend lines, except pinch running. Probably because many of the faster players are starters.

He certainly seems more engaged than 22-23. As I said upthread, I'll take it. It's really the no-urgency-Cora that most has to be avoided.
Last time we were above 1.5% in stealing third was 2018. And we're way above that. Give me some of that 2018 magic.
 

Ale Xander

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However, if the team quits on him like it did at the close of 2023, I think his time is over.
Team is too young to quit, not ebnough veterans. Other than Masa, and perhaps Reese, no candidates (at least positional players) strike me as the type. Maybe Kenley but I even doubt he ha sthe potential to quit on Cora.

You don't have the 2011roster, no Crawford no Drew, no Scutaro, no Beckett, no Agon, no Lackey most of all. You don't have those type of veteran personalities/contracts that would quit.
 

nvalvo

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Honest question: how do the "But He's a Cheater" crowd view him these days?
I’m not in this crowd, but the reason I’m not is that I don’t think it is a warranted belief that the 2017–19 Astros were more than the most egregious perpetrators of a pervasive trend.

Logan Morrison said he thought 25 teams were doing similar things. Given that he played for a bunch of teams, that feels like informed speculation. If we got the look into other teams’ practices that we got into Houston’s (and Boston’s, to an extent) in that period, I think we’d see a lot of questionable things.

I say this not to apologize for cheating, but to suggest we view it like the difference between steroid use before testing and after. Both were wrong, but I think people agree that the competitive implications were different when “everybody” (not actually everybody, but it felt that way) was doing it.
 

joe dokes

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That said, I absolutely hope the exception continues and so becomes his new baseline. If he gets them to the post-season this year, I wouldn't object to his being extended. (Or even if he gets them close but they're derailed by injuries.) However, if the team quits on him like it did at the close of 2023, I think his time is over.
I'm never sure where the line between "quitting" and "sucking" is. Yoshida is picking up where he left off. Did he quit? Or Verdugo? (He probably did quit; regardless, he's doing no better in NY than he did last year here). Turner certainly didn't quit. Paxton ran out of gas; Schreiber was/is toast-adjacent. And the Arroyos, Uriases and Reyeses of the world may not be major leaguers. Same with Kike'. He had a bit of a dead cat bounce with LA last year, but he appears kinda done.
I dont know what to make of managers anymore. He has more higher-quality tools at his disposal this year and he's using them. I like Cora as a manager. But even so, I'm not sure he's any more or less a product of his players than just about anyone else. Even Bochy is saddled with a lineup that only has 4 guys with OPS+ over 100.
 
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Rovin Romine

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I'm never sure where the line between "quitting" and "sucking" is. Yoshida is picking up where he left off. Did he quit? Or Verdugo? (He probably did quit; regardless, he's doing no better in NY than he did last year here). Turner certainly didn't quit. Paxton ran out of gas; Schreiber was/is toast-adjacent. And the Arroyos, Uriases and Reyeses of the world may not be major leaguers.
I dont know what to make of managers anymore. He has more tools at his disposal this year and he's using them.
Injuries happen, and I don't imagine Cora is responsible for them (e.g., 2022). There were also injuries in '23, but they death-spiraled. They were two games out of the WC in late August, and went 8-19 in September. 8-23 if you include the last 4 in August. It was an epic collapse - just as bad as 2011.

Turner, BTW, put up a -0.8 WAR in that stretch.
 

Cassvt2023

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Cora, as much as i like him for this team, is funny with his lineup choices. Tonight's just came out. Rommy (1-3 against Gausman) and Hammy (2-5) had arguably two of the biggest hits in last night's comeback win, and neither are in the lineup to start. He is instead going with D Smith (0-7) and Valdez (1-3, prob worse defender).
 

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I'm still not really a fan but I also don't think he's necessarily bad. I think he makes some terrible decisions that cost games but others that win games (and it might be the difference of 4 or 5 games on both sides of that). I'm not sure who I'd prefer though....
The one thing I think is on Cora way more than other stuff is that yeah..... I think the poor defense is on him most of the time since it really seems to be mental lapses. Attention issues. Fundamental stuff.... not range, foot work, arm, etc... they're just flat out dumb errors and decisions that I don't see more tightly wound teams make. That said.... they do seem to be getting better.
 

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Aug 1, 2001
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Cora, as much as i like him for this team, is funny with his lineup choices. Tonight's just came out. Rommy (1-3 against Gausman) and Hammy (2-5) had arguably two of the biggest hits in last night's comeback win, and neither are in the lineup to start. He is instead going with D Smith (0-7) and Valdez (1-3, prob worse defender).
Those miniscule sample sizes are completely irrelevant. Thank god he doesn't make out lineups based on those.
 

Cassvt2023

Member
SoSH Member
Jan 17, 2023
716
Those miniscule sample sizes are completely irrelevant. Thank god he doesn't make out lineups based on those.
I get the small sample sizes. I'm more inclined to think he'd go with the hot hand, and both those guys were super clutch in the late innings just last night. And Dom's 0-7 may just mean that he doesn't see the guy that well. Snark noted.