October 8, 2019

Cora: "There Are A Lot Of Question Marks ... But We're Not That Far Off."

Alex Cora's team won 24 fewer games than the 2018 club. Their run differential dropped from +229 to +73. About a week ago, the Red Sox manager talked about a variety of issues:
Having been here two years, are there things you've learned about this job that you hadn't expected that maybe you can share with this incoming boss [new GM]?

I knew what I was getting involved in. It's 24/7, seven days a week for the whole year. It's nonstop. The fan base, they really get into it. The noise outside Fenway is loud, it is. And you have to block. That's the most important thing. ... Most of the time it's hard because wherever you go they're reminding you what's going on, or who you are or what you mean for them, which is a cool thing. ... It's a challenge, but I do believe if you're involved in this business, it's a good challenge. ...

Was there a point or a moment this year, where you knew, "Maybe this just isn't our year?"

[T]here were a few games we did stuff out of the ordinary. I told you there were certain games I felt like if we win that game, we take off. The game against the Dodgers on [July 14, a 7-4 loss [in 12 innings]]. We got a man on second, no outs [bottom of the 11th inning], and we trust that Marco [Hernandez], he's going to pull the ball. He hits a ground ball to short and Jackie [Bradley] at second, he gets thrown out. It's like "Ugh. We don't usually do that." Then we lost two out of three in Baltimore. But then we go to Tampa and win the first two, but the whole freaking mess on the 24th with the changing pitchers. We won two, but that third game kind of took everything out of it. I didn't notice it [then], but I was out there for 25 minutes. ... We beat Tampa two out of three but it didn't feel that way. Then you get to that Sunday game [against the Yankees on July 28]. You [have a chance to] sweep them, but we get beat. And it's like, "Man." Last year, we [would have] swept them.

The eight-game losing streak the Sox endured against the Rays and Yankees in late July — while the team stood pat at the trade deadline — and early August helped seal their fate. Still, Cora recalls plays he thought could have redirected the Sox. Specifically, he thought Rafael Devers being thrown out by Minnesota's Eddie Rosario to end the game — after a J.D. Martinez double that looked almost certainly like it would score Devers — on Sept. 5 especially stung.

There were a few moments. Oh, wait. The one: Eddie Rosario. When that happened I was like "No way." Then we had New York that weekend and they demolished us [in a four-game sweep]. If we're going to pick a play, that's the play. I was still upbeat. ...

As a person who's always planning ahead, you've probably at least considered a lineup next year without Mookie Betts or J.D. Martinez. What does that look like?

I can't get ahead of myself. I've been thinking about what we can do better from Sept. 10. I was managing but at the same time looking around like, "We should do this better and different. We should attack this this way, from players to clubhouse guys, to video guys, to coaches to myself too." I'm my biggest critic. We're in a good position. Obviously there are a lot of question marks, and when those question marks are answered then we'll have more clarity of what's going on. But I have a pretty good idea of what we want to do in the offseason and who's very important. We talk about Mookie and J.D. all the time, but there are certain guys here that we feel they can take a step forward just like Xander [Bogaerts] did and [Devers]. [Andrew Benintendi] is the guy. I do believe if Andrew plays up to his potential — I was watching yesterday, I think it was Game 1 in the World Series and how fast he was. Benny was playing at another level in October. So if we get him to play to that speed again, he'll be a force. Obviously people outside our walls are doubting us and saying this is a tough situation. All that stuff that is not true. I understand where they're coming from, but I do feel we're in a good spot. You get those three guys [David Price, Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi] healthy and pitch the way they're capable of. And we've got [Eduardo Rodriguez] that did pretty good this year. You look at [Brandon Workman] and Barnes, [Josh Taylor], Darwinzon [Hernandez], [Marcus Walden], they had great seasons. Brasier should be better and Heath [Hembree] should be OK. We're not that far off.
The 2020 Red Sox will have both a new pitching coach and assistant pitching coach.

Dana LeVangie, the pitching coach for the last two seasons, will remain with the organization as a pro scout. Assistant pitching coach Brian Bannister will focus on the minor leagues as vice president of pitching development. Boston finished 19th in the majors with a 4.70 ERA, and the starting rotation was at 4.95.

Last week, the Red Sox parted ways with assistant hitting coach Andy Barkett. One source told The Athletic's Chad Jennings: "We're just going in a different direction." ... Hitting coach Tim Hyers, on the collaborative approach in an era of overwhelming information:
I'll be honest with you, it's not all perfect. We have confused some players, and we have disrupted some players (with too much data)… We do have players that, there is very limited information they want, and that's perfect. They're good. That's what makes them function, and that's great. But also, the guy that needs to dig deep and (have) all that about how they move and all that information, we're here to help also. ... If we have the mentality of, you don't speak until you're spoken to, or you can't say anything, or you can't share, then it doesn't help the young guys.

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