The problem for the Red Sox, if not for Cora herself, has always been optics: what would it be like for the team to bring back a manager who was connected after a 10 month sabbatical? to two different signs with two different World Series champions, one of which is the Red Sox itself?
The answer: it doesn’t look good.
Is Cora so talented and indispensable that it was worth putting up with all the vitriol and accusations that Boston was on the way to hiring him after Friday news, first reported by MLB Network had been? Apparently the Red Sox believe that.
The move to renew relationships with Cora came as no surprise to anyone who was paying attention. Even when Boston split with him in January – after Cora’s role as instigator of the Houston Astro’s sign theft in 2017 when he was the bank coach, but before reporting on a smaller program, run by the 2018 Red Sox, for Cora had no involvement as a manager – the best minds on the team went out of their way to show their admiration and affection for Cora.
“He has to go through a rehabilitation process. What he did was wrong, ”said Red Sox team president Sam Kennedy in January. “… But I firmly believe in second chances. We wish him all the best. “
The Red Sox conducted an extensive management search this fall, interviewing up to 10 candidates, carving the field to a handful of finalists – some of whom were brought back for an additional round of interviews – and reportedly flew to Puerto Rico to interview Cora in person before making their decision late Thursday evening. His suspension had ended a little over a week earlier.
Perhaps the Red Sox were looking for someone who could blow them away during the interview process, as Cora did in the fall of 2017. Perhaps Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom, who arrived in Boston in October 2019 and therefore had little relationship with Cora, wanted a chance to lead a management search and really found Cora to be the best candidate.
But it wasn’t until May that Bloom announced Boston’s WEEI radio station when asked about a possible reunion with Cora: “It’s not part of the thought process at all. It’s not on our radar at all. “
The exterior of Boston’s management search will be that it was superficial at best, with the Red Sox – or at least everyone through Bloom in the organizational flowchart – knowing all along that they wanted Cora back. At least this was the standard move.
Now comes the damage control. The Red Sox don’t have to worry too much about comforting souls in New England, whether inside or outside the organization. Cora’s 2018 title gives him a lifetime passport with Boston fans, and he’s been a hugely popular figure with his players and bosses.
But the move probably won’t go well with many others in the sport who, even if they admit that Cora’s hiring was perfectly legal, could still argue that it is incorrect. There’s probably nothing the Red Sox or Cora can say to change that mind, but they’ll have to try anyway.