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Rumors and Rumblings | Why Alex Cora is in demand

HOUSTON, TX - JUNE 16: Houston Astros bench coach Alex Cora (26) hitting balls during batting practice prior to MLB baseball game between the Houston Astros and the Boston Red Sox on June 16, 2017 at Minute Maid Park in Houston, TX. Boston Red Sox defeated Houston Astros 2-1. (Photo by Juan DeLeon/Icon Sportswire)
Juan DeLeon/Icon Sportswire

It seems certain Alex Cora will be managing the Boston Red Sox next season as multiple report have the Houston Astros bench coach in line to replace the fired John Farrell.

Cora was also getting strong consideration for the New York Mets’ managerial vacancy. He declined an interview with the Detroit Tigers, who then agreed to hire Arizona Diamondbacks bench coach Ron Gardenhire on Thursday.

Why is Cora such a hot commodity?

“Because he checks off every box on the list you’re looking for in a major league manager,” an Astros’ source said. “He’s smart. He’s knows the game. He’s personable. He’s a great communicator. He’s bilingual, which is very important in today’s game. He will be great with the media. He understands the big picture of what it takes to build a winning organization.

“You read and hear a lot of really good baseball people in the mix for these jobs, but I guarantee you Alex would blow them all away. That’s how good he is.”

Cora, 42, is in his first season as a coach after spending 14 seasons in the major leagues as an infielder from 1998-2011, then working as an analyst for ESPN the past four years.

He was also the general manager of the Puerto Rican team that reached the championship game of the World Baseball Classic in March before losing to the United States.

Those who know Cora say he desired the Red Sox’s job. In addition to having the best chance to win immediately with the Red Sox on the heels of back-to-back American League East titles, he played in Boston for four seasons from 2005-08 and won a World Series ring in 2007.

“Normally, I’d say a young first-time manager would get eaten alive in Boston but not Alex,” an executive from an AL team said. “He can handle it. In fact, he’ll thrive there if he gets the job.”

*****

Tony La Russa walked away from his post as chief baseball analyst with the Arizona Diamondbacks this week — that wasn’t a surprise. His power was usurped last winter when the Diamondbacks hired Mike Hazen and demoted La Russa from his post of chief baseball officer.

La Russa’s credentials as a Hall of Fame manger are impeccable. He won 2,728 regular-season games, six pennants and three World Series over 33 seasons with the Chicago White Sox, Oakland Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals.

I had a chance to talk with La Russa at length not long after he joined the Diamondbacks in 2015. He was enthused about the opportunity of running a team from the front office after so many years in the dugout. He also had no doubt he would be successful in the new venture.

However, owner Ken Kendrick felt compelled to make a change after the Diamondbacks cratered last season with a 69-93 record.

The Diamondbacks reversed their record this year to 93-69 and beat the Colorado Rockies in the National League Wild Card Game before by swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers in their NL Division Series. La Russa was out of the public eye during the turnaround.

“I think every general manager, deep down, thinks they can manage a team and, on the flip side, every manager believes they can be a GM,” said an executive from an NL team. “However, they are two very different animals. You look at the game from two different perspectives. Managers are more concerned with what’s happening now but GMs have to take a longer-term view.

“I can’t help but wonder if Tony fully understood that.”

*****

Short of joining Don Larsen as the second man to throw a perfect game in the postseason, Dodgers right-hander Yu Darvish will likely be remembered for one thing this October. He became the first pitcher to draw a bases-loaded walk in a postseason game in 40 years, then capped it with a bat flip.

Darvish worked Chicago Cub reliever Carl Edwards Jr. for a four-pitch walk in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series. It was the first time a pitcher had drawn a base on balls with the sacks jammed since the Philadelphia Phillies’ Larry Christenson in Game 3 of the 1977 NLCS against the Dodgers’ Burt Hooton.

However, it is Darvish’s performance on the mound that has been most impressive. He has won both postseason starts, defeating the Diamondbacks in the clinching Game 3 of their NLDS, while allowing just two runs in 11 1/3 innings.

Darvish was 6-9 with a 4.01 ERA in 22 starts for the Texas Rangers this season before being traded July 31. After allowing a combined 10 runs in 7 1/3 innings in his first two starts of September, there was reason to wonder how much the 31-year-old could help the Dodgers in October.

Darvish then gave up only one earned run in his last three starts, spanning 19 innings, and has carried his dominance to the postseason.

“I give him and (Dodgers pitching coach) Rick Honeycutt a lot of credit because (Darvish) got his season turned around on a dime,” a scout from an AL team said. “He’s pounding the strike zone and eating hitters up with his cutter. He’s as good as I’ve ever seen him. Six weeks ago, I wouldn’t have trusted him on the postseason roster.”

*****

The Minnesota Twins made an untraditional hire this week when they added Baseball America editor John Manuel to their scouting staff.

However, Manuel will certainly be an asset to the Twins after establishing himself as one of the best prospect writers in the country during his 21 years at BA. Someone does not gain that kind of reputation without having strong player evaluation skills.

The downside of Manuel’s move, though, is that baseball fans will no longer have the chance to tap into his vast knowledge of players. That is now proprietary information of the Twins.





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