BOSTON (AP) — Alex Cora wants to make one thing clear — he deserved to have his dream job as manager of the Boston Red Sox taken away earlier this year.
He also is eager to prove he is worthy of his second chance to direct the team he led to a World Series title in 2018.
Cora was introduced as the new Red Sox manager on Tuesday, just 10 days after his one-season suspension for his role in the Astros’ sign-stealing scheme during their 2017 championship run came to an end.
Cora was Houston’s bench coach prior to being hired by the Red Sox in November 2017, and promptly led Boston to the 2018 championship after a franchise-record 108 regular-season wins. Now he’s back armed with the task of rebuilding both his reputation and a team whose roster looks totally different from the one he previously oversaw.
“It’s been a tough year,” Cora said Tuesday. “I was spending time at home for all the wrong reasons. For that I want to apologize. I deserved what happened this year. It’s something that I’m not proud of. We went through the whole process,,,and at the end I got my penalty and I served it.
“I put this organization in a tough spot. And for that, I’m sorry.”
Even at the time of Cora’s departure from the club in January, Red Sox owner John Henry and chairman Tom Werner, as well as team president Sam Kennedy, didn’t hide their affinity for Cora while acknowledging it was the right decision to part ways with him.
Still, after manager Ron Roenicke was let go following a last-place finish in the AL East this past season, Kennedy said the team made it clear to new baseball operations chief Chaim Bloom that the process and decision for hiring their next skipper was in his hands.
That point was reiterated in a September meeting that included Bloom, general manager Brian O’Halloran, the ownership group and Kennedy.
“Did we let him know how we felt about Alex? Absolutely,” Kennedy said. “We were honest and genuine and direct that we would be supportive of the concept of Alex coming back if (Bloom) felt and his teammates felt that was the right thing for the Boston Red Sox. But that it was their decision to make.”
Bloom, who was hired in the 2019 offseason, had only worked alongside Cora for a few months before Cora departed. So, his initial text and calls to Cora a few days after the World Series were more about getting to know him and his philosophies better.
“Honestly, when the suspension happened, this was the last thing I was thinking,” Cora said of the possibility of returning. “I needed to take care of a lot of things on a personal level, take care of my family and baseball was the farthest thing from my thoughts.
“I never saw that day coming. But little by little the conversations got deeper and deeper.”
He said he, Bloom and O’Halloran had several frank and candid conversations about not only what happened in Houston, but Cora’s vision for building a consistent product on the field following the trades of former MVP Mookie Betts and David Price as part of the salary cap-reducing moves the team has made since Cora left.
“It was intense. It was genuine and it was tough, you know, because there were some tough questions,” Cora said. “And then I kind of like, ’OK, you know, there’s a chance.’”
That process eventually grew into a formal interview. Bloom and the team’s internal search committee interviewed several other candidates as well, but it became clear to them that Cora deserved a second chance.
Bloom said while he didn’t presume to know how every player in the organization viewed the possibility of Cora returning, he said he received several “unsolicited” opinions from them.
“I have a pretty good idea of how they feel about Alex,” Bloom said.
While MLB’s investigation concluded that the sign-stealing scheme Cora orchestrated in Houston wasn’t used during the Red Sox’s 2018 World Series season, Kennedy said there have been internal discussions regarding installing safeguards to ensure their baseball operations staff adheres to all league rules going forward.
That’s just fine by Cora, who acknowledged he must still find ways to innovate during his second stint in Boston while running an operation that remains above reproach.
“You’ve still got to find ways to take advantage of the situation,” Cora said. “The MLB has done an outstanding job cleaning up a few things that teams did or were doing. And it’s a no. It’s a no for me to cross the line. If I fail at this then I’m out of the game.”
But he’s still going to push the envelope, he said.
“As a manager, I still going to push them to do everything possible to read the scoreboard, read the pitchers, read catchers and do all that stuff,” Cora said. “I mean, that’s part of baseball. And I’m going to keep pushing for that.”
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