Xander Bogaerts sat with Alex Cora in person Wednesday. Just a day prior, he had learned of Cora’s parting from the Red Sox while working out on a baseball field in the Phoenix area, where he trains in the offseason. Once he touched down in Boston, he connected with his now-former manager.
“Obviously it’s very unfortunate,” said Bogaerts, never afraid to tell you how he really feels. “I know he’s someone that we all enjoy playing for, and love sitting and having conversations with him baseball-wise. He’ll be someone that we will miss a lot. Obviously, me especially, we had such a great relationship.”
Bogaerts admitted he owes a lot to Cora. He helped turn him into one of the best shortstops in the league. He encouraged him to hit for more power and use his strength. Cora didn’t care if he gave up some batting average in the process, but Bogaerts still hit .309 while slugging a career-high 33 homers.
“He helped get me to the other level that I was trying to reach,” Bogaerts said. “I’m very thankful for him. Always was a fan of him as a person. He’s just a smart baseball guy. He pushed all of us.”
Bogaerts didn’t want to take anything away from the 2017 Houston Astros, who beat the Red Sox in the AL Division Series on their way to a championship, but whose cheating scandal ultimately cost Cora his job in Boston.
“They had a great team that year,” he said.
Still, cheating is cheating, and Cora had his hands fully immersed in Houston’s as bench coach. Remember, in Game 1 that year, Chris Sale gave up seven runs on nine hits at Minute Maid Park, where the Astros had a camera fixated on the catcher’s signs. Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve hit back-to-back homers against Sale in the first inning.
“Playing in that park isn’t easy,” Bogaerts said. “I had no idea [about the trash can banging to signal pitches]. I’m going to be honest, that place is so loud, I don’t even know if I could hear one [trash can].”
The Red Sox are under their own investigation, surrounding their 2018 World Series team. Bogaerts said he hasn’t spoken to league officials and wouldn’t comment on the investigation itself, but he did mention that 2018 wasn’t a fluke for his team.
Moving forward, the Sox will have to decide who will manage the club. Both Bogaerts and the Sox hope that they find a manager before the start of spring training. He doesn’t think this transition will be much of a hindrance for their squad, considering they have been together for some time.
“The good thing is that we have a team that’s pretty much familiar,” Bogaerts said. “There are still a few more weeks until spring training. I don’t know what will happen until then, but obviously, we have a lot of veterans in this clubhouse to make a run. Forget about the distraction.”
Cora is gone. The Red Sox search began after the team’s official announcement Wednesday. When Bogaerts was asked what qualities he was looking for in his next manager, he didn’t shy away.
“Someone like [Cora],” he said. “The first year he came here, he won. Everything seemed so easy. Last year we had some rough stretches, but we still ended the season over .500. Obviously, that’s not where we wanted to be. He did a great job with us. It’s not easy managing 25 guys and keeping them on the same page, and not like letting that clubhouse break apart.”