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Alex Cora's insane memory could be Red Sox' secret weapon

Rob Bradford
October 11, 2018 - 7:37 am

The topic of Dustin Pedroia's early years comes up. Without hesitation, Alex Cora references the second inning of the Red Sox' Aug. 22 game against the Angels.

"A missile," Cora exclaims. "Line-drive in the back of the bag."

Pedroia nods because it was his first at-bat as a major leaguer. But why would Cora remember such a moment? It's because that's what he does. It's uncertain if the Red Sox' manager has a photographic memory, but some absolutely believe that might be the case.

"Yeah, when it comes to baseball," said Cora when asked if he realized how good his memory was, pausing before looking around his office. "Now, where's my watch?"

"I've always noticed it," Pedroia said. "He has a great memory."

When it comes to managing these Red Sox Cora has been on a hot streak, seemingly since Day 1 but certainly throughout the past week leading up to his team's showdown with the Astros in the American League Championship Series.

Pats on the back are one thing. Amazement is another.

"No, I haven’t," said Red Sox principal owner John Henry when asked if he has seen any manager push the right buttons like Cora did while beating the Yankees in New York. "He has been impossible to second-guess. That’s how good he’s been."

"I don’t know if I’ve seen anybody who is able to read a game better than him. He’s locked in at all times," said Red Sox first baseman Mitch Moreland. "He never panics. He’s always two or three steps ahead."

The reason for the success can't be pinned down to one quality, but the manager's memory has certainly served him well. And with the team he spent the entirety of 2017 with - the Astros - coming to town, that reality only figures to be amplified.

It's a topic which many have started realizing is of the utmost importance for managers and head coaches, thanks in part to the success of the Rams' Sean McVay. That's the guy who can evidently remember every play of his coaching career.

It's uncertain how close Cora can come to McVay, but we do have a pretty good idea that the Red Sox' manager has a memory far better than most.

"I’ve noticed it a few times. He has a really good memory, way better than mine," said Red Sox bench coach Ron Roenicke. "It’s an advantage to have a good memory. It is an advantage. The guy who can recall things that happened in a game two months ago against that same team is more prepared for something happening again. You’re able to piece together things that happen in-game from stuff that has happened before."

Perhaps the most recognized memory in Red Sox circles has always been that belonging to Jason Varitek.

It is believed that when it came to opposing hitters the former Sox catcher possessed a photographic memory, which obviously served him well when strategizing gameplans for his pitchers. Does Cora compare? "It's pretty close," said Red Sox pitching coach Dana LeVangie.

"He recalls a lot of early 90s stuff, players, situations," LeVangie added regarding Cora. "I've noticed it probably more so this year. It’s pretty special. A lot of people talk about catchers having great memories like Tek was one of those guys. But Alex is pretty special some of the things he remembers. Sitting in the clubhouse before he will be calling out hitters and situations and who got the hits, guys he played with when Ron was managing. It’s pretty unique to hear him."

It's not as if Cora has gone through McVay-like tests, or has people broadcasting to the world that he possesses this unique ability. But the more you're around the Sox' manager, listening to him talk situations - or even about items from articles months and years before - it becomes a noteworthy topic.

One to remember heading into this ALCS.

"We’ve got numbers and stats for everything, but if you can just remember how your pitcher did against someone because outside our division you’re only facing them once away and once home. Once you get outside your division the memory really becomes important," Roenicke said. "I’ve told him a few times, ‘Alex, I’m impressed. You have a really good memory.’ Because we’re talking all the time when he brings up stuff it always catches me because I don’t have a great memory. So when people are really good at it, it always impresses me."