At the end of the Red Sox' tumultuous 2020 season, the team’s star player and leader in Xander Bogaerts said that he and Alex Cora remained in contact throughout the year despite Cora serving a one-year suspension for his involvement in the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal.
“I still talk to him,” Bogaerts said. “Obviously he’s been a manager here and someone who’s had an impact on my life and my career also. He and Roenicke, those battery mates made us make that World Series in 2018.”
That 2018 run in which Cora and Roenicke led the club to a franchise-record 108 regular season wins and the organization’s ninth World Series feels like ages ago. But with the Sox' decision to rehire Cora Friday as their manager, this might be a new beginning for Cora, but more importantly for the franchise, the restoration of morale within a clubhouse that lauded his presence.
In his two seasons with the Sox, Cora proved himself to be a shrewd manager on the field. A skilled game planner. But another one of his gifts came with his ability to connect with players. Cora knew how to push and pull and ultimately get the best out of them. Rafael Devers, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Christian Vazquez, for example, didn’t reach their potential until Cora came into the picture.
On Friday, Rodriguez celebrated on Twitter, tagging his former manager in a series of emojis.
Rodriguez, who missed the entire 2020 season after contracting COVID-19 followed by myocarditis, had a career season under Cora in 2019. He was the Sox' best pitcher that season, tossing 203 ⅓ innings while striking out 213 batters in that span and registering a 3.81 ERA.
But Cora didn’t just leave an indelible impact on those who are still with the organization. Former Sox starter David Price, now a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers, knows just how much Cora meant to players within the clubhouse, including him.
“AC was respected by everyone in the clubhouse,” Price said in a text message Friday. “When he spoke we listened. He’s genuine and I appreciated everything he did for me and the team. Guys respond to AC well and he has a different relationship with everyone on the team.”
Just before the team’s Winter Fest, the loss of Cora was still fresh for Sox players who had to express for the first time publicly just what Cora meant to them. Front and center at Fenway stood Bogaerts, who also just had come off a career season under Cora, belting a career-high 33 homers and a .939 OPS.
“Obviously, it’s very unfortunate,” Bogaerts said at the time. “I know he’s something that we all enjoy playing for and I love to sit and have conversations with him baseball-wise. Obviously, me especially, we have such a great relationship. Knowing the team we have and everything we had going on was pretty special with him in charge was obviously great.”
Bogaerts will have a chance to duplicate that success with Cora again at the helm. The Red Sox players got their guy back.