By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — If there was one comment that stood out from Alex Cora’s introductory press conference at Fenway Park on Monday, it was without question the remark about the city of Boston not presenting a challenge to him.
“For a lot of people it’s a challenge. But for me it’s not,” Cora said regarding the cauldron that can be baseball in Boston. “I understand that they live baseball 24/7. But I come from [Puerto Rico], where they live baseball 24/7. For breakfast, we talk baseball. For lunch, we talk baseball.”
Living and breathing baseball is one thing, and it’s undoubtedly necessary for anyone who wants to successfully manage the Red Sox (hello, Bob Valentine). But there’s something about Cora’s comment that doesn’t quite cover the scope that is Boston baseball.
Consider this: If you strip out all of the flaws and faults of John Farrell and look strictly at results, you see a team that won 93 games in consecutive seasons, winning two straight division titles. The run of consecutive division titles came just two years after winning a championship.
In 2016, they lost to a team that ended up going to Game 7 of the World Series. In 2017, they lost to the team that eventually won Game 7 of the World Series.
Would it have been reasonable to identify either the 2016 or 2017 Red Sox rosters as really being championship-caliber? Not at all. So would it be reasonable to really say that either team underachieved? Not really.
Nevertheless, for a myriad of reasons, Farrell was unceremoniously fired just two days after his team lost to the eventual World Series champions. His Red Sox tenure ended with a 432-378 record, good for a .533 winning percentage. There was a pair of last-place finishes in the middle, yes. But during his five years on the job, the Red Sox won the division three times. In the franchise’s previous 43 years in the AL East, the Red Sox had won the division a total of six times. They won a World Series in his first year on the job, just the third championship for the franchise in a near-100-year period.
All of this is to say that as far as accomplishments go, John Farrell had plenty. Yet he was still kicked to the curb after a season that would be considered successful in maybe every other MLB front office, save for the Yankees’.
And if you’re the incoming manager replacing Farrell, the wildest part of the whole story has to be that it would be difficult to argue that Farrell deserved to keep his job. His clubhouse was in disarray without David Ortiz to serve as the de facto mayor, he never firmly grasped in-game strategy, his team ran into every single out it could find on the basepaths, and he claimed ignorance when his team was caught up in an embarrassing sign-stealing snafu.
But despite all of those faults, Farrell’s team won. In many markets, that is all that matters.
As Cora takes the job as the 47th manager of the Boston Red Sox, he knows that he has to win. But winning alone still won’t be enough to stick around for the long term. To manage the Red Sox, the challenge involves a lot more than winning baseball games.