Tomase: Turn the page? On 2018? Are you crazy? Alex Cora sees no reason not to embrace last year

John Tomase
February 13, 2019 - 5:46 pm
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Alex Cora wanted to pick Bill Belichick's brain about winning back-to-back titles this offseason, but the two never managed to connect.

They'd certainly be tackling the problem from very different points of view, as Cora made clear with his thoughts on "turning the page," which he tucked into his introductory spring training press conference on Wednesday.

"You turn the page, but do we really want to turn the page?" Cora asked. "It's a book and we wrote a chapter last year and let's write a new chapter this year, but we can always go back and see what happened and learn from that."

Wait, a champion acknowledging its accomplishments instead of lining up a firing squad for anyone who dares reference past success? That's not how sports work! Enjoying your achievements is a sign of mental weakness. Far more admirable to undertake the grim, joyless task of repeating with a Sisyphean sense of doom. Championships are best experienced fleetingly before taking no days off and hoping that boulder doesn't roll back down the hill.

Clearly, Belichick's methods work. He has wrung more titles and Super Bowl appearances out of the same team than any NFL coach, ever. But that doesn't mean his way is the only way, which makes Cora's irreverence in the face of a task that's often treated as life and death so refreshing.

Now let's see how it works.

"Sometimes turning the page is so negative," Cora said. "I'm like no, in this case it was very positive last year and we can learn a lot from what we did last year. Is it going to be the same way? Hopefully. I don't mind that, but we know it's going to be a little different, but we can learn a lot from what we did last year and put it into play this year."

Belichick obviously possesses different methods of motivation. The threat of unemployment looms over even the NFL's biggest stars, should their play falter, or a younger, cheaper replacement emerge. Rob Gronkowski nearly learned the first lesson last spring, and until the Jimmy G. trade, Tom Brady wobbled on the edge of the latter precipice.

Keeping a team on track over the course of 16 games is very different from 162, which is why old-school hard-asses have largely disappeared from baseball, whether it's the chain-smoking Jim Leyland, professorial pit bull Buck Showalter, or the defiantly, anachronistically small-ball-loving Mike Scioscia.

Cora's not cut from that mold. He arrived with a very different vibe than any Red Sox manager maybe ever. Relaxed. Loose. Carefree. But also all business.

The Red Sox played in Cora's image, relentlessly grinding out victory after victory because that's what they were put here to do. Cora always played with a swagger belying his job description. It's what made him a team leader on the 2007 World Series champions, despite filling the supporting role of utility infielder.

He takes a similar approach to managing, which gives the Red Sox hope they can become the first repeat champions since the 1998-2000 Yankees won three straight crowns.

"He wins championships, back-to-back World Series champion," ace Chris Sale said. "You talk to some of the Houston guys, too, they'll have nothing but really, really good things to say about him. He's just, he makes it fun. He can light a fire underneath you. He holds it down. He's an unbelievable leader.

"With any team that is great, they have to have a great leader. There's no question he's that."

In 2018, that meant convincing the Red Sox of their greatness. In 2019, it means embracing the accomplishment, dog-earing the page for easy reference, and writing the sequel.

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