With the hiring of Alex Cora, it seems as if the Red Sox could finally be entering a new era: a modern age of baseball. There are a lot of reasons that Cora was chosen over candidates like Ausmus and Gardenhire. Cora is the 47th manager in franchise history, but the first Hispanic one, a good move for a team with a large percentage of Latino players. He’s only 42 years old, whereas Terry Francona, Bobby Valentine, and John Farrell were 45, 62, and 51 years old respectively at the time of their hirings. He’s a former Red Sock, 07 champion, and teammate of Dustin Pedroia, who will play for him at least this upcoming season. He’s the current bench coast for this season’s ALCS champion Houston Astros, a team that trounced us in the ALDS and then battled the Yankees to advance to this week’s World Series.
One of my problems with John Farrell was that he never seemed to learn from the mistakes that had this year’s team losing games they could have won. He’d blow up and get himself ejected from games, most notably Game 4 of the ALDS, when he got himself chucked in the 2nd inning of an elimination game. He’d leave pitchers in for far too long, even when he had an ample bullpen at his disposal. And when they lost, he’d do the same thing in the following game. And then he’d keep doing it.
With Farrell’s quick dismissal and Cora’s hiring, I’m wondering if the Red Sox have turned over a new leaf, started a new chapter, all those sentiments. Now that we have a skipper in place, it’s time to look at the off-season, when trades are one of the only things to talk and speculate about.
The Red Sox are in desperate need of some batting power, and frustratingly, for the third off-season in a row, a strong starting pitcher. David Price did an incredible job in the ALDS, as a relief pitcher. But we can’t pay him $31 million a year to pitch a couple innings a few times a week. Chris Sale started off the season looking like he could break Pedro’s 1999 K’s record, but by the end of the season, he looked like the Tin Man begging for his oil can. He blew Game 1 of the ALDS as a starter and cost us Game 4 and the series in the relief spot.
And then there’s my guy, David Ortiz. I knew the team wouldn’t be the same without him – I literally said it on Opening Day – but I couldn’t predict what a disaster they would be, to the point where the Red Sox went out and gave Papi some crazy eternal contract to mentor players and be a figurehead, possibly just to distract from how bad the team is without him.
So what are the Red Sox going to do this winter? Are they going to do what they’ve seemingly always done and give one guy a massive contract only to have it backfire again? Need I remind you of Adrian Gonzalez (7 years, $154 million), Carl Crawford (7 years, $142 million), or our favorite disaster, Pablo Sandoval (5 years, $95 million)? Doing it once is unfortunate, twice is a mistake, but twenty times is pathological stupidity.
My advice? Let Cora and Ortiz mentor Devers and Benintendi, who are young rookies with immense potential; they’ll blossom with the right guidance and can be key pieces for years to come if handled correctly. Re-sign Moreland, who is consistent on the field and at bat. Find a few more guys like him. David Ortiz was no Giancarlo Stanton when the Sox got him (he made $1.25 million in 2004), and look how he turned out. And if you want to grab a big guy for good measure, fine. But don’t make it the end-all-be-all of this team, because it won’t work. Giancarlo Stanton or Jose Altuve or Bryce Harper or Mike Trout, it won’t matter who; giving them $200 million to show up won’t magically make the rest of these guys start hitting better. And to those of you who say that a big bat would inspire these guys to work harder, I’ll play devil’s advocate and say that with such a young, impressionable team, a big bat coming in would only intimidate them and foster inferiority complexes. Sounds touchy-feely, but stranger things have happened in the Sox clubhouse.
If the Red Sox are serious about entering a modern era of baseball and building a dynasty, they’ll keep cleaning house. Considering this team finished 27th in the MLB in home runs, I won’t be sorry to see most of them go. It’s hard to be attached to guys who let you down.
I’m excited for the Cora Era; change is in the air at Fenway Park.