After Cora’s triumphant return to the bench, Red Sox successes have returned

There is no question, the closer we get to the All-Star Game, that Xander Bogaerts has been Boston’s best player so far, while the Red Sox continue to surprise the baseball world with a 4.5 game lead in the AL East, thanks to the best record of the Young Circuit (53-32), very close to being the best in the Major Leagues.

And Chaim Bloom, the head of the club’s baseball operations department, has made several moves under the radar with starting rotation and the bullpen. And he’s done it with essential players like Alex Verdugo (part of the trade for Mookie Betts), Puerto Rican Enrique Hernández and Hunter Renfroe, a way to remind everyone why owner John Henry brought him in from the Rays.

But there is another MVP for the Red Sox this year. Call him your Most Valuable Person. We refer to his manager, the Puerto Rican Alex Cora, back from a one-year suspension for his role in the Astros’ signing scandal while he was the bench coach of AJ Hinch, which in turn resulted in Boston firing him from office. It has been a very good thing for the Patirrojos. None of the Red Sox successes, three years after Cora led the edition that won 108 games in the regular season and Boston’s fourth World Series this century, would be happening without him leading the ninth.

In a world where analytics has become such an essential part of team plans and managers are increasingly powerful, Cora is one of those who reminds us every day of the importance of having someone effective in the dugout. . And Cora is, without a doubt, a great leader. In two and a half seasons leading the Red Sox, his record is 245-163.

On Saturday, I asked Dave Roberts, another fantastic manager, what qualities make Cora so special, who Roberts shared a team with on the Dodgers and who he faced as a manager in the 2018 World Series.

“The ability he has to relate to and understand his players,” Roberts responded. “They know that he is in that fight with them.”

This doesn’t change what happened to him in Boston, or to his old boss, Hinch. That will always be part of Cora’s story. But neither does his current record with the Red Sox change, nor the work they have done under his command this year after starting with a 0-3 mark that put them in exactly the same place they occupied last year without Cora, the basement. East of the American League.

Now the Red Sox are trying to move from last to first place, as they did when they ended up winning the 2013 World Series with that group of warriors that surrounded David Ortiz (and a 20-year-old boy they brought in to play in third place). base surname Bogaerts), the type of players that now surround Bogaerts, the Dominican Rafael Devers and JD Martínez in the middle of the order of these Patirrojos.

This was said by Bloom the other day to my friend Dan Shaughnessy at the Boston Globe, talking about Cora:

“His ability to communicate and motivate is comparable to anyone who has done this job. See things in the game that hardly anyone sees. I love working with someone who is so studious about baseball. He loves everything to do with this game and it shows in everything he does. You can see it in our dougout. The players are there talking about ball. They are watching the game and the boys can learn things even when they are not playing. That atmosphere in the dugout is something that must help us in the course of such a long campaign. “

Joe Torre, another leader with those Yankees who won four World Series in five years and almost five in six between 1996 and 2001, always tells me, as happened a few weeks ago, that being a manager “is still a matter of managing people. I appreciate the value of numbers, but you will never be able to take the human element out of the equation. “

That is precisely Cora. Anyone who was ever in contact with him as a player, and I was so lucky when he played for the Mets in 2009 and 2010, knew from a single conversation that Cora was a true baseball man, not just from his observations on the game, but also about the players. We all knew that one day he would be a manager. The only question was when and with whom.

It was with the Red Sox. Dave Dombrowski hired him. The Red Sox ended up winning a total of 119 games in 2018. Even the Martians know what ended up happening to him, Hinch and the Astros organization after that. There were no guarantees Boston would give him another chance after his suspension. But they did. And now the Red Sox have been one of the great surprises of this year, along with the Giants. Boston has once again armed itself around the quiet man they missed so much and who has now raised them up again.

The other day, after sweeping the Yankees and Royals at home, Cora spoke about the importance of getting the fans back and how having a packed stadium has helped the team lately.

“They have made a difference,” said Alex Cora.

Not as big as the one he made at Fenway Park.

Mike Lupica /