Boston Red Sox: Alex Cora is the main reason for the team’s success

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 18: Manager Alex Cora #13 of the Boston Red Sox (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 18: Manager Alex Cora #13 of the Boston Red Sox (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

The 2021 Boston Red Sox have turned themselves into one of the biggest success stories of the MLB season. After finishing a miserable 24-36 in 2020’s pandemic shortened season, the Sox have blown past preseason expectations, and appear well on their way to their first postseason berth since their 2018 World Series run.

When comparing the Boston Red Sox 2020 roster and the 2021 roster, there honestly aren’t too many differences. The core four bats of the lineup (Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez, and Alex Verdugo) all played last season, although Martinez and Devers struggled most of the season. And the starting rotation only added Garrett Richards through free agency, while also getting Eduardo Rodriguez back after he missed the entire 2020 season.

That’s part of the reason why Boston’s turnaround in just a couple of months is somewhat confusing. This team showed no signs of even being competent for most of the previous season, and yet here they are leading the AL East with just over two months of baseball left.

There’s one significant change that took place off the field that appears to be getting overlooked, and that is the return of Alex Cora in the dugout. Cora missed all of last season suspended for his role in the Houston Astros cheating scandal, but he hasn’t missed a beat in his return this season. And there’s good reason to believe he’s the main person in charge for the Red Sox success this season.

Why Alex Cora is responsible for the Boston Red Sox success

Admittedly, it may be jumping the gun giving Cora the majority of the credit for Boston’s success. After all, he was in charge for the lost 2019 season in which Boston failed to make the playoffs with pretty much the same team they had in 2018. And it’s not as if he’s on the field doing something to win Boston games.

But his managerial style appears to be perfect for this team. It’s no surprise that a guy like Rafael Devers has excelled with Cora back in the dugout after struggling for much of last season. He knows how to relate to his players, and help them get the best out of themselves on the field.

Let’s take last night’s blowout victory over the Toronto Blue Jays for example. The Boston Red Sox had just come off a disappointing series loss to the New York Yankees, and were 3-6 over their last nine games. Cora knows this, so he decides to shake up his lineup, and they explode for 13 runs.

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He starts by leaving Kike Hernandez a top the lineup. Hernandez went cold for a long stretch between May and June, and it looked like Boston had a big problem at the leadoff spot. But Cora stuck with Hernandez, and he has made him look like a genius for it. He went 3-for-5 last night with two home runs.

At the number two spot, Cora took a risk and slotted in the newly promoted Jarren Duran after putting him at the bottom of the order in his first two games. Duran promptly hit a two run home run in his first at bat of the game.

After typically having the 3-4-5 part of the lineup go Martinez, Bogaerts Devers, Cora switched things up and went Bogaerts, Devers, Martinez. Bogaerts had an off game, but Devers hit his 23rd home run of the season, and Martinez went 4-for-4.

The bottom half of the lineup paints the same picture. Verdugo didn’t get a hit after being bumped to the six spot, but he drew three walks and come around to score twice. Hunter Renfroe and Danny Santana both hit home runs after being moved down in the order.

These are changes from just one game, and yet they have come to personify the season Cora is having from the dugout. Nearly every move he has made has worked out, and a simple tinkering of the lineup resulted in a 13 run outburst.

The same could be said for the pitching staff. Take a look at a guy like Nick Pivetta for example. He had to earn his roster spot over Tanner Houck in training camp, and after he earned it, he’s been one of the top guys in the rotation for the Sox all season long.

Or Eduardo Rodriguez, who struggled for much of May and June, but finds himself getting back on track in July. Cora could have called up Houck and moved Rodriguez to the pen, but he let the struggling lefty work on figuring things out, and it’s paid off quite handsomely over his last couple of starts.

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Even the bullpen has similar examples. Matt Barnes has looked like a different pitcher this season, and part of it is due to Cora giving him the confidence to be more aggressive and attack hitters in save situations. Garrett Whitlock has taken the opportunity Cora (and Chaim Bloom) have given him, and run with it.

Of course, the players have to go out and perform, but Cora is the one responsible for giving them the opportunity to do so. He knows how to relate to his players and get the best out of them, and it’s a big reason the Sox find themselves where they are right now. Without his guiding presence, who knows where the Boston Red Sox would be this season.