The next problem for the Red Sox? No Alex Cora

Rob Bradford
January 14, 2020 - 10:57 pm
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When Alex Cora was hired by the Red Sox he was the right guy for that time and that team. Despite the disappointing 2019 season that hadn't changed. He was still the right guy for this time and this team.

Now Cora's time is done. Understand, that is the latest very real problem for these Red Sox.

Cora's exit from the manager's chair was inevitable after everything that had transpired in the last two days. The only question was what the timeline would look like, with some believing the Red Sox would wait until Major League Baseball's punishment was formalized before lowering the boom. Others looked at the awkwardness that awaited just days away with the media availability at both the Boston Baseball Writers' Dinner and the Winter Weekend in Springfield and surmised a flurry of "it's an ongoing investigation" responses couldn't quite fit this time around.

All parties involved determined sooner was better than later. It was time to move on. OK. But just because you ripped the Band-Aid off doesn't mean this wound is going to get any better. In fact, the Red Sox got worse Tuesday night. That is the uncomfortable reality that this whole mess has left the Red Sox with.

Cora made some fateful mistakes which led him to this point. But he also was a very good manager who had established himself as a major part of the identity of this evolving organization. 

Just to be sure I asked a current Red Sox player Tuesday night if this was going to put a dent in the current Red Sox clubhouse. "Absolutely," was the answer.

This isn't always the case during managerial turnover.

Cora, however, represented a reason for players to come to Boston and stay in Boston. You can absolutely understand why he could no longer manage the Red Sox, with folks getting up in arms about bringing doubt and discomfort to that 2018 team. But one thing that hadn't changed over the past two seasons was that he should have been part of a solution to a future filled with potential problems. It doesn't matter at this point, but that is a very real thing.

So be it. What now?

Some might suggest that the best way to cling to Cora's presence is going with what you know. Ron Roenicke is well-respected and well-liked in that clubhouse. He has managerial experience, which might be prioritized with a first-time Chief Baseball Officer. But we still don't know if Roenicke will be included in any sort of MLB punishment after the current investigation into the 2018 alleged chicanery is complete.

Jason Varitek is the guy most Twitter polls are surfacing. In this organization's current battle for perception, the promotion of the former catcher would be a much-needed PR win. But understand Varitek isn't Cora. This is a different person with a different demeanor. To think that Varitek would be able to manufacture the same clubhouse identity that Cora accomplished isn't realistic. It is the same misguided assumption that took place when the Sox slapped a "C" on Varitek's uniform and expected him to be all things to all people among very complex and diverse Red Sox rosters.

Varitek is clearly a good baseball man with a good baseball mind. But is he the right guy for this team and this time? That question deserves more than just the time it takes to put his photo on the cover of a media guide.

This has to be Chaim Bloom's choice. Maybe that will be Roenicke. Perhaps it will end up being Varitek. And there is always the possibility he goes with what he knows with some Tampa Bay guys, such as Rays bench coach Matt Quataro, who interviewed for both the Giants and Pirates jobs.

But the next manager for the Red Sox can't be a stopgap for a variety of reasons. 

First off, even with the lack of shock-and-awe free agent signings, this is expected to be a good team. You don't enter a season with a payroll of more than $200 million without that sort of expectation. There is still time to find the person Bloom believes fits the 2020 team the absolute best.

There is also the importance of letting the potential future foundation of the Red Sox know what their leader is going to look like. Mookie Betts really liked Cora and even though his decision to re-sign is going to be based in business, having Manager Alex around certainly was a plus when it came to convincing the superstar to stay. You can't go into this season without certainty regarding who these guys are going to be playing under beyond 2020.

In an offseason of no easy answers, it's time to put some more uncertainty on the pile. Just know that while everyone is so focused on the scandal and the wrongdoing, living life without Cora isn't going to be without its problems. Welcome to the 2020 Red Sox.