BOSTON (CBS) – He’s the toast of New England and the object of great admiration all around Major League Baseball after a series with the Yankees that was one of the greatest displays of managerial skill in recent memory. But do we really appreciate what we have in Red Sox manager Alex Cora?
Remember that when Cora was hired away from the Houston Astros a year ago this month, he inherited a Red Sox team that had some serious cultural problems.
The manager had lost the respect of the players, and some of the players had in turn lost favor with the fans over both their on-and off-field blunders. The team was spending nearly $200 million and winning their division but folding early in the playoffs and something needed to be done.
That something was hiring Cora, a veteran infielder with 13 years in the big leagues known as a defensive specialist and modestly famous for an 18-pitch at bat he had in 2004, the third-longest at-bat in the record books. And there’s a straight line from all that to what we’re enjoying now.
Cora has the Sox executing defensively and on the base paths at a level we haven’t seen in years. He’s willing to sit hot hitters like Brock Holt and Eduardo Nunez to beef up the defense and it always seems to pay off. Red Sox hitters show the same patience at the plate that Cora did. And maybe the best thing about this season has been the absence of nonsense, like the chicken-and-beer fiasco or the disrespect of Dennis Eckersley.
Great leadership is scarce these days, but when it comes along it can transform a culture from losing to winning. And that’s exactly what Alex Cora is doing.