The Boston Red Sox were the best team in MLB as recently as 2018, when they won the World Series championship.
That year, they had a first-year manager, Alex Cora, eager to prove himself and make a good impression.
He led a talented roster, headlined by outfielder Mookie Betts, to the promised land, after winning 108 games during the regular season.
Cora had won the ring with the Houston Astros a year before, in 2017, as a bench coach.
Boston slumped the next year, in 2019, but still managed to finish with a winning record of 84-78 under Cora.
During the offseason that year, it was revealed that Cora had been involved in the 2017 sign-stealing scheme that Houston put in place, so the Red Sox decided to part ways with him and the league suspended him anyway, through the 2020 postseason.
The Red Sox Weren’t Expected To Compete So Soon
The Red Sox were last in the American League East that year, with a 24-36 record under Ron Roenicke.
With the Tampa Bay Rays established as a top team, the New York Yankees still in the elite, and the Toronto Blue Jays ready to take the next step, very few people forecasted a playoff appearance for the Red Sox in 2021.
In fact, lots of experts had them fourth in the division, only ahead of the lowly Baltimore Orioles.
Cora signed a two-year deal to return as the Red Sox’s manager for the 2021 and 2022 seasons.
With him at the helm, the surprising Red Sox led the division for most of the first half.
Before the season, they made some savvy acquisitions, and Cora had a lot to do with them.
They brought crucial reliever Garrett Whitlock, selecting him in the Rule 5 Draft from the New York Yankees.
They also signed outfielder Hunter Renfroe to a one-year deal, and in February, he struck gold with free agent Kike Hernandez.
All of them ended up being crucial contributors for the Red Sox’s 2021 team and made the franchise much more competitive than initially thought.
Alex Cora taking the Red Sox from worst to WC winners
— Alex (@AlexTheMetsFan) October 6, 2021
An Immense Influence
Cora had a lot of weight in the player movement, and he deserves a lot of credit not only because of immense in-game decision-making, but also because of his excellent eye for talent.
I think Alex Cora has shown how much influence a manager can have on wins.
— Whaaaaaatt (@Whaaaaaatt4) May 18, 2021
It was Cora who was the one who gave slugger Bobby Dalbec the chance to prove himself, and he responded with 25 homers and a decent .794 OPS.
Renfroe hit 31 homers, Whitlock finished with a 1.99 ERA in 72.1 innings, and Hernandez is carrying the team in the ALCS.
Cora has as good of a case as anyone else to be considered the best manager in MLB.
He is one of the few managers who has a tangible impact in the outcome of a game and a series, and that is becoming clearer with every passing day.
As of Monday afternoon, the Red Sox and the Astros are tied at one win apiece in the ALCS.
It is now essentially a best-of-five series, and we can safely say that Boston is in this position largely because of Cora’s positive influence in his clubhouse.