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Bradford: Why Alex Cora should be next Red Sox manager

Rob Bradford
October 12, 2017 - 3:32 pm

When John Farrell took over the Red Sox after the 2012 season, he was the right guy at the right time.

The Red Sox had bizarrely believed that they needed to go 180 degrees away from Terry Francona the year before, hiring Bobby Valentine, and the results were predictable. Valentine and the Red Sox didn't stand a chance. So, when Farrell was hired, he represented a good chunk of what had worked so well with Francona. While the personalities were different, the approach was appreciated by a core group of guys who wanted to forget the enema that was the 2012 season.

With the additions of players like Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Ryan Dempster and David Ross, it wasn't difficult to see what kind of leader the Red Sox needed. By the time September rolled around in 2013, it was a team that had 19 guys who were 29 years old or older. For that group, Farrell was a really good fit, which was evident when watching him punctuate his first season as Sox skipper by carrying around a World Series trophy.

Now? The Red Sox could have still won with Farrell, but because of Dave Dombrowski's desire for a change of managerial direction we won't find out if there could have been a third straight American League East division title under the 55-year-old's watch.

So, now that the move has been made, it's time to use this opportunity to find the best fit for the 2018 Red Sox. Dombrowski can't just default to what he thought might work in Miami or Detroit. Everything about this job will be unique. The market. The team's make-up. The expecations. Forget about those openings in Philadelphia, New York or Detroit. Boston is like the at scene in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" when Indiana Jones has the chance to steal the precious idol, but only after dodging spears, spiders and a giant boulder. Big payoff. A lot of landmines.

It's why, this time, Alex Cora should be the guy.

I sense that Ron Gardenhire and Brad Ausmus might be more of what Dombrowski will be comfortable with. But if the Red Sox' chief decision-maker is really reading the room correctly, he will understand why Cora is a better fit.

Cora obviously knows baseball strategy. Forget reputation. Just talking to him over the past 10 years, I feel confident in that proclamation. (I do think there is something to be said for being labeled as one of the best in the game at identifying pitch-tipping. That, for me, is a solid example of baseball acumen.) And a year as bench coach with the Astros should tie up any loose ends when it comes to calling the shots in a major league game.

That, however, is only a piece of this equation.

There is also confidence. He has a lot. Whatever coaching staff he puts together, you can bet that it will be full of aspiring major league managers. That says something. In this city, with this clubhouse, there has to be a sense of fearlessness and willingness to be one's self. Make a mistake, move on. I don't have proof that this is Cora as a major league manager, but I do have proof that he's been like that every day leading up to the opportunity. He was the one who told Eric Gagne to stand in front of his locker after blown saves. One game in Cleveland when he was with the Red Sox, he missed a crucial bunt attempt and was standing in front of his locker, literally inviting the media to approach him once the doors open. It was out of the ordinary for any player, never mind a utility player.

The Red Sox also need his personality.

It's a core group of players who seemed to fruitlessly search for fun even while living the first-place life. While Farrell fit that '13 team perfectly, Cora's personality would seem to mesh with what these guys might really take to. Young and aggressive, meet young and aggressive. Times have changed when it comes to baseball clubhouses, even in the past few years. As someone recently put it, "These guys are just a bunch of millennials who are good at baseball." Well, so be it. But the 41-year-old (who has been fairly active on social media) clearly understands where these guys are coming from better than the other aforementioned candidates.

As for the Boston media landscape, it is inarguable that Cora -- even with his lack of managerial press conferences -- grasps this better than Ausmus and Gardenhire. There have been examples of Dombrowski not reading the room correctly due to the uniqueness of this market, and that would also undoubtedly be a similar challenge for these guys who were raised in the midwest markets. There is nothing like Boston. Nothing. These guys can get in interviews and go through simulations, but this is one thing nobody can simulate unless you've gone through it. You know who has? Cora.

Perhaps Dombrowski prioritizes managerial experience and proven approaches when making this decision. In a lot of cases, that would be the right move. Not here. There is so much more that should be factored in.

That's why Cora is the right guy at the right time.

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