By TERRY LYONS
BOSTON – There have been all sorts of press conferences and events held in the State Street Pavillion of Fenway Park. From Hot Stove and Cool Music baseball events for the Foundation to be Named Later to World Series previews to Managerial hirings.
It’s safe to say: There’s never been a press conference like the one held today.
In nearly every case of a hiring or firing, there’s a sense of anticipation or relief. A sense of anger for the past or hope of promise in the future. Today, after initial greetings of attendees not seen since October, there was a mood of somber reality, more like a wake than a funeral, but certainly not like news of a game of baseball.
Of course, no one passed away and, in the grand scheme of things, the managerial position of a baseball team doesn’t amount to a hill of Popeye’s fried chicken in the crazy world. But – again – it’s safe to say, no one wanted to be at a press conference today to discuss the fact the Boston Red Sox and beloved team manager Alex Cora parted ways – mutually – yesterday.
In the cat and mouse game of media covering a baseball team, there’s not a reporter in the land that won’t admit that a solid relationship with the team skipper is among the most important relationships one can establish. In baseball, that is magnified a few notches, as the club revolves around the manager, his decisions, his pitching rotations, his instincts, his availability to the media who cover the team.
In Cora, the Boston Red Sox had a gem.
As a former player, he knew the city, the city’s vibe, the importance of the Red Sox to the greater Boston community. As a bi-lingual (Spanish-English) player/manager/speaker, he was as accessible to the Latino community as he was to all. Keep in mind, Cora’s only “deal-breaking” request of the organization he signed up with in 2017-18 was to help courier relief supplies to his native (Caguas) Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria struck the Island in the fall of 2017.
Now, as of a detailed nine-page report from the Commissioner’s Office of Major League Baseball, Cora was found to be at the very center of a sign-stealing scandal, directly opposed to the MLB rules. Upon reading of the report Monday night, the Boston Red Sox organization had no choice in the decision to dismiss Cora from his duties.
At a Tuesday meeting, Cora agreed with the decision and the Red Sox made the following statement:
“Today we met to discuss the Commissioner’s report related to the Houston Astros investigation. Given the findings and the Commissioner’s ruling, we collectively decided that it would not be possible for Alex to effectively lead the club going forward and we mutually agreed to part ways.
“This is a sad day for us. Alex is a special person and a beloved member of the Red Sox. We are grateful for his impact on our franchise. We will miss his passion, his energy and his significant contributions to the communities of New England and Puerto Rico.”
Said Cora: “I want to thank John, Tom, Sam, the players, our coaching staff and the entire Red Sox organization. I especially want to thank my family for their love and support.
“We agreed today that parting ways was the best thing for the organization. I do not want to be a distraction to the Red Sox as they move forward. My two years as manager were the best years of my life. It was an honor to manage these teams and help bring a World Series Championship back to Boston. I will forever be indebted to the organization and the fans who supported me as a player, a manager and in my efforts to help Puerto Rico. This is a special place. There is nothing like it in all of baseball, and I will miss it dearly.”
Today, it was time for the front office to face the music and meet with the Boston media. Not much more was said, as the Red Sox stewards were limited in what they felt they could say while Major League Baseball continued a thorough investigation of the 2018 Red Sox, world champions under the direction of Cora, implicated for his actions in 2017.
“Alex handled himself with dignity, respect and it was all about what was best for the Boston Red Sox,” said Sox and Fenway Sports’ CEO Sam Kennedy on Cora. “He was remorseful, he apologized.”
New Red Sox head of baseball ops, Chaim Bloom, finds himself in an even more difficult position than he imagined when he accepted the job to replace Dave Dombrowski who was dismissed abruptly last summer. While Bloom bought some time with his $27 million one-year offer to Boston outfielder and perennial MVP candidate Mookie Betts, he is still in need of miracle work to re-set the Sox payroll and rid the team of high-priced player contracts that belong to the likes of David Price, Nathan Eovaldi, and an often-injured ace in pitcher Chris Sale.
Now, Bloom needs a new skipper and he will most likely have to look internally but will have to wait until the Commissioner’s Office completes its investigations. The last thing Bloom wants to do is to name a manager – interim or not – that ends up with a suspension from MLB for participation in the scandal.
“We certainly want to get it done as soon as possible,” said Bloom today. “We haven’t taken the step or put a timetable on it.” he noted while recognizing the rather unique situation he finds himself in with the start of Spring Training 27 days, nine hours and thirty minutes away as of this writing.