Twelve years ago, the company that owned the newspaper I worked for at the time decided to lay everybody off. But we were allowed to reapply for our jobs a few days later.
I was in Chicago at the time to cover a Yankees-White Sox series and was instructed to go to a website to submit my application and await a call from our corporate office in Virginia to be interviewed.
The call came and a person I didn’t know asked me why I thought I was qualified to be the Yankees beat writer.
“Because I’ve been the Yankees beat writer for the last three years,” I said.
I was then asked to list my accomplishments and if there was anybody I could provide as a reference. I was tempted to say Joe Torre, but for once in my life I decided not to be a smart aleck.
They called back an hour later and said I had been rehired. It was a bizarre experience.
Alex Cora surely can relate. He has been identified as one of five finalists to be the next manager of the Red Sox, and he’s the only one who has been the manager of the Red Sox.
He’s also the only one who has managed the team to a World Series championship and demonstrated the ability as a manager to bring out the best in young players.
Hiring a new manager requires a leap of faith to at least some degree. Interviews, game simulations, and background checks can cover a lot of ground, but until you see how that person handles the team once the season starts, you’ll never know for sure if you made the right choice.
Cora wouldn’t come with an absolute guarantee of success, but it’s awfully close. He was 192-132 in two seasons as manager and worked well with everybody around him.
To what degree that includes chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom is hard to assess. Bloom arrived Oct. 28, 2019, and Cora was prodded out the door Jan. 14 after Major League Baseball identified him as a protagonist in the sign-stealing scheme the Houston Astros ran in 2017.
They worked together for only 2½ months, but Cora and Bloom appeared in concert about the offseason moves a year ago.
Here is what Cora said about Bloom last Dec. 9 at the Winter Meetings:
“I think we see the game very similar. Obviously he’s going to bring some cool ideas. We’re going to make some adjustments in a few things, but I don’t think it’s going to change that much. I think in the end as an organization our goal is to win the World Series and be consistent.”
Now the choice for Bloom is whether to restart his professional relationship with Cora or hire Sam Fuld, Don Kelly, Carlos Mendoza, or James Rowson as the team’s third manager in three years and the fourth in the last five.
Fuld, a former big league outfielder from New Hampshire, joined the Phillies as their player information coordinator in 2017 before being promoted to director of integrative baseball performance.
That’s a fancy way of saying Fuld bridged the gap between the analytics staff and the clubhouse. But he hasn’t had an on-field position.
Kelly was Pittsburgh’s bench coach last season after coaching first base for Houston in 2019. He scouted prior to that. You may remember him as a utility player for Detroit.
Mendoza had one year of minor league managerial experience with the Yankees, then joined their major league staff in 2018. He was the bench coach last season.
Rowson was Miami’s bench coach last season. He has 19 years of coaching experience, mostly as a hitting coach, and has never managed.
Prior major league managerial experience isn’t as meaningful as it once was. Eleven of the 16 managers in the postseason this year had no prior major league experience before landing their jobs, 12 if you count Sandy Alomar Jr. filling in for Terry Francona with the Indians.
Fuld, Kelly, Mendoza, and Rowson could all become excellent managers. Fuld and Rowson in particular are seen as having bright futures.
But I believe having meaningful experience in Boston is meaningful to succeed as a manager of the Sox, if not required.
From his time as a Red Sox player and an ESPN broadcaster, Cora had a finely tuned sense of the palace intrigue at Fenway Park, the expectations of the fan base, and what needs to be said (or often, more importantly, not said) in front of the media.
He knows what it’s like to be a Sox player and how to deal with the demands that entails. What made Cora the right choice when he was hired in 2017 makes him the right choice now.
If you feel compelled to run for the moral high ground and reject Cora for his actions in Houston, so be it. But you can’t honestly believe that organization was on the straight and narrow until Cora showed up.
That doesn’t excuse what he did, but Cora served his sentence. The manager of those Astros, A.J. Hinch, got a second chance, hired by the Tigers. Cora should get his.
The Red Sox have been a chaotic organization for 10 years with their dramatic highs and lows, a rotating cast of GMs and managers, and team-building philosophies that change on a whim.
Bloom and Cora offer the best chance at long-term success. So why is it taking so long?