4:05pm: The Red Sox have made it official.
3:43pm: Cora has agreed to a two-year deal with a pair of club options, according to Enrique Rojas of ESPN.
8:18am: The Red Sox are bringing back Alex Cora as manager, reports Jon Heyman of MLB Network (Twitter link). He’ll return to the position he occupied from 2018-19 in a move anticipated by many for quite some time.
Cora and the organization parted ways in January after commissioner Rob Manfred implicated him as an architect of the Astros’ 2017 sign-stealing scheme. Manfred later handed Cora a suspension through the end of the 2020 postseason for his integral role in Houston’s transgressions. (That suspension did not implicate Cora in Boston’s video room misuse during his time as Red Sox manager, which the commissioner blamed on replay coordinator J.T. Watkins). By then, the Red Sox had already replaced Cora with bench coach Ron Roenicke.
Roenicke’s tenure proved to be short-lived, as he was let go on the heels of a disappointing 24-36 season. That’s hardly all Roenicke’s fault, of course. Boston’s roster took plenty of hits outside the manager’s control in the months leading up to the start of the season. Mookie Betts was traded away, Chris Sale was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery, and Eduardo Rodríguez suffered through a serious battle with myocarditis after a bout with COVID-19.
The 2018-19 teams led by Cora had plenty more success. In his first season at the helm, Cora guided the 2018 Red Sox to one of the most successful seasons in recent history. Boston won 108 regular-season games, then breezed through the postseason to a World Series title. The 2019 team took a significant step back, falling to 84-78 and missing the playoffs. Nevertheless, there’s little doubt Cora would’ve been entrenched as Boston’s manager had his heavily-involved role in the Astros’ cheating scandal not come to light.
Boston interviewed a handful of other candidates during the search for Roenicke’s replacement this offseason. Cora always loomed as the favorite, given his apparent ongoing good favor with ownership and many of the team’s players. New baseball operations leader Chaim Bloom spoke with a handful of other candidates, with Phillies director of integrative performance Sam Fuld seemingly emerging as Cora’s biggest challenger for the job. Nevertheless, the Red Sox turned back to their old skipper almost as soon as he was permitted to return to the sport.
Cora’s hiring is further indication clubs are generally willing to look past individuals’ wrongdoings so long as they’re capable of helping the team win games. The Tigers hired former Houston manager A.J. Hinch as their skipper just three days after his suspension expired. Cora follows Hinch back into an MLB dugout just a week later. He’ll be tasked with again trying to lead Boston back to postseason glory, although he’ll now have to do so with a less-talented roster than the one he helped to a title two years ago.