Alex Cora’s 2019 Red Sox are back

Admit it, that April was horrendous. It was tough to watch. As the 2019 gates opened for the defending greatest single-season baseball team of all time, Red Sox fans were left puzzled. Something was off. Suddenly an offense that was capable of dropping 7 runs an inning at will last season, couldn’t get 7 hits a game. Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley were dropping routine balls, Chris Sale’s fastball lost that zip. Fans couldn’t help but wonder if it would be another worst to first season. Alex Cora isn’t worried.

One person whom seemingly hasn’t been rattled by any of this, sophomore manager Alexcora Cora. Sox fans didn’t question him last season when he wanted to change the Red Sox approach in Spring Training and try to have the best March record. He thought that by installing a mentality of winning in Spring Training, it would put championship aspirations into the minds of this promising group. That group never looked back, on their way to 108 regular season wins and their fourth title since 2004.

Alex Cora is the perfect manager for this 2019 team.

This season, Cora had a different approach. With the shortened offseason due to the postseason success, Cora wanted to rest his starting pitching. Sale, Price and Eovaldi merely didn’t pitch in March. He thought by resting these veteran arms, they would have more “Juice” later in the season, as supposed to the beginning.

So when Sale isn’t striking out the side on 9 pitches early in April, fans may be concerned. When he doesn’t have that upper 90s “Sale stuff” we are so accustom to seeing, fans may get concerned. But this is all part of reigning champion manager, Cora’s plan.

Now I sit here, looking at the Red Sox calendar on May 9th and I see just as many wins as I do losses. 19 wins to 19 losses for the reigning champs. If the season ended today, they would be a meager one and a half games out of a playoff spot. A spot that some media and fans alike, thought just two weeks ago, we wouldn’t ever see.

On May 8th, Chris Sale dazzled the Baltimore Orioles for 14 strikeouts, and 1 earned run in 8 innings. He pitched an immaculate 7th inning. Basically, vintage Chris Sale. That’s a performance we see from Chris Sale usually in early April. So maybe that Spring training approach has given him that much needed slower pace. A pace that will help him not fizzle out at times in August and September. That approach also will help him avoid that scary term, “dead arm,” that plagued Sale last season.

May 8th was a turning point to this years team.

That game also had Bradley leap up in the bottom of the 9th to rob Trey Mancini of a walk-off homerun. Those routine plays that he and Betts were missing in April, are now not only being made, but being made into memes. We will see that catch on 2019 highlight reels to come and its a reminder as to why Jackie is still in a Boston uniform. Its a reminder of that Cora philosophy of not panicking and letting the inevitable talent outweigh the early season flaws.

That game will be a turning point for this Red Sox team. Throw April out of the window. It’s a new season. 19-19 for the 2019 Red Sox. A team that will never be below .500 again.

Cora Deserves Respect for White House Decision

Alex Cora finally made his decision this week about whether he would go with the team to The White House to celebrate their World Series victory. Cora is not going. Neither are many of the other players including Xander Bogaerts, David Price, and Rafael Devers. Whether you agree with him or not on this issue, Cora deserves respect for his decision. He’s the manager, and he’s setting an example about doing what one feels is right in the face of adversity.

“The government has done some things back home that are great, but we still have a longcora deserves respect ways to go,” Cora is quoted as saying to the Associated Press. “That’s our reality. It’s pretty tough to go celebrate when we’re where we’re at. I’d rather not go and be consistent with everything.” Cora may have been referring to The White House’s claim that $91 billion was allocated to help rebuild Puerto Rico in the wake of a devastating hurricane. That number is well below what the unincorporated U.S. territory has actually received. While Cora did not specifically mention the president, it is difficult to ignore the white elephant in the room.

Red Sox Nation hasn’t hesitated at all to chime in with their opinion about Cora’s decision, many of them negative that question his patriotism and devotion to America. Some are angry that Cora isn’t showing respect for the U.S. President, whose office has a tradition of hosting victory celebrations for teams that won their respective championships. While this is true, today’s political climate has made it very challenging for sports teams to decide whether to visit The White House as part of their celebrations. Some say that teams should go regardless of who is president because that’s tradition. Others argue though that to go would not only validate the president’s controversial actions, but is a betrayal of their own feelings.

Cora Deserves Respect for Staying True to his Homeland

Cora is Puerto Rican and therefore American by birth. However, his primary allegiance is, and always will be, to his homeland. You can’t blame him for that. The fact that he made a well-thought out and articulate decision reflects his maturity. It also reflects his professionalism. In my view, he is saying that he will not partake in a celebration when there’s still so much to be done. Frankly, not only is he entitled to that belief, but he doesn’t really have to answer to anyone for his decision other than to ownership, and God.

The controversy to not attend such events at The White House is nothing new. The focus on a zero sum scenario where one side has to be completely correct and justified, and the other side can’t have even a modicum of respect makes it challenging to have rational discussions about this topic. Cora did not personally criticize anyone though. He showed his appreciation for what the government has done, but is also stating that there’s much more to do. Furthermore, Cora is not obligated to fulfill anyone’s definition of patriotism or loyalty. While he will have to accept any consequences of his decision, it doesn’t make him any less of a man. Going to The White House wouldn’t make him a patriot anymore than standing in a garage would make him a car.

I commend Cora for standing up for himself, and more importantly, for Puerto Rico. There’s a rich history of athletes, both Democrat and Republican, who received their fair share of criticism for making similar decisions. At the end of the day, anyone who says that Cora is making a political statement is missing the point. If anything, they’re contradicting themselves by trying to make it about politics. It’s not about politics, it’s about doing what he thinks is right. With that said, Cora deserves respect for his decision not to go to The White House.

Alex Cora: “I Will Not Be Going To The White House”

Over the weekend, Alex Cora informed the media that he will not be going to the White House to celebrate their 2018 World Series Championship. Cora, along with several other Red Sox players, will not be going, while others are. Over the past several months, it has been a topic of discussion as to who will be going, and who won’t.

Over the past year or so, many championship teams have opted to take the time to dowhite house other things in Washington DC. This usually includes a visit to the Walter Reed Hospital, or charity work, rather than meet President Trump. While I understand fully why Alex Cora, and other players don’t want to go, I believe that Cora should go.

The Red Sox In The White House

In 2005, 2008 and 2014, the Red Sox were honored at the White House. Alex Cora was a player on the 2007 World Series team who was honored in 2008 by President George W. Bush. President Bush was able to honor the Red Sox twice while in office. President Barack Obama did it once in 2014. For Red Sox fans, the most notable player to miss the 2005 and 2008 visit was Manny Ramirez.

This time, it is different. Alex Cora is citing the devastation that hit Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria as the main reason behind his decision. The devastation, and the response from the White House, was uncalled for. Following his hiring as manager, Cora and other members of the Red Sox went to Puerto Rico to assist those who were affected, something that President Trump hasn’t done himself.

A Platform To Help

During Spring Training, Cora was mum on whether or not to go to the White House. Many thought that he would join the team. That was until Sunday, when his decision came out.

Personally, if I was Alex Cora, I would love to have the opportunity to tell President Trump about what is going on over in Puerto Rico. The damage from the hurricane occurred about a year and a half ago. Still the country is not back to 100%.

While I understand his choice, going to the White House is more than meeting the President. It’s a chance to take in history, and see the White House. Cora got a chance to do so as a player back in 2008 with President Bush. A lot can change in eleven years. Granted, in the past, many players have opted against going. This, of course, is their choice. I wonder, however, what Cora will do instead.

Off Day Blues

While Red Sox players such as JD Martinez and Brock Holt will be attending, many will not. One can only wonder what those who won’t be going will do. My hope is that they do what teams have done in the past, such as visit Walter Reed or assist in the community.

Winning the World Series doesn’t happen everyday, and it should be celebrated. This team has accomplished a lot. Therefore, I hope that they keep getting better as the season continues.

Red Sox closers: Will the current strategy work long term?

Despite the bullpen being a bright spot for the Red Sox, fans are still calling for an impact arm. Red Sox closers have been effective, but Craig Kimbrel is not walking through that door. Perhaps a look at the numbers will ease concerns over the relief effort.

A change in the way the Red Sox handle the later innings

Instead of playing along with the standard MLB approach (having one man handle the Red Sox closersninth inning), the Red Sox brass have gone by committee this year. While Ryan Brasier has largely handled the closing duties, other relievers such as Matt Barnes have occasionally entered the final frame. Alex Cora has used Barnes in high leverage spots based on when the meat of the lineup is due up.

Barnes and Brasier have both found relative success in their roles

In 13 appearances, Barnes boasts the AL’s highest strikeout rate (50 percent) with three walks and a 2.08 ERA. Out of those 13 spots, five have come in the ninth, four in the eighth, once in the seventh, and he has pitched in both the seventh and eighth a pair of times. Barnes has had a steady rise over the years, and it has culminated into the impressive season he has put together so far.

However, Red Sox closers have combined to amass three blown saves through 11 chances. In comparison to the last three seasons with Kimbrel, that is a troubling trend. The team has already struggled to bring leads into the later innings. But the individual numbers suggest the Sox will be just fine.

Braiser has handled the bulk of the save opportunities, securing the game in six of eight tries. Despite his 2.57 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 14 innings, the calls to make a change were loud after he allowed a walk-off home run to Nick Delmonico (hitting about .150 at the time) against the White Sox on Thursday night.

Brasier has been a lot better than he’s earned credit for

An article by Alex Speier of The Boston Globe analyzed the work of Brasier between this season and last. HIs findings showed that the journeyman is still about as effective as he was in 2018. Although, he has allowed three homes runs through his 14 innings so far. That is one more than he allowed through 33.2 innings of work last season. Speier points out that there is not any direct reason for concern, as Brasier’s strikeout and walk percentages remain in tact. He is still generating lots of swings and misses with his fastball/slider/splitter makeup.

While fans might be uneasy about the plan’s long term success, Cora has put the team in a good position. There’s no analytical evidence that either Barnes or Brasier are in danger of coming undone. As long as they keep posting numbers like these, the Red Sox are in good hands.

Mookie Betts heating up at the right time for Boston

It’s no secret that the Red Sox have not been impressive in the opening month of their title defense. After all, finishing April at a 13-17 clip is nothing short of a disappointment to start 2019. The Sox have won 7 of their last 11 and there’s been big reason for that: Mookie Betts heating up.

The 2018 AL MVP generally starts his seasons with a cold couple of weeks, and this Mookie Betts heating upcampaign was no different. Up until about two weeks ago, Betts was slashing .212/.321/.394. Those are numbers that a lot of players would be happy with. But the Red Sox right fielder is capable of much more, and that is starting to show.

Over the 11 games since, he has started to blossom back into form. He’s hit .405 (17-for-42) with five doubles, two homers and seven RBI. But not only do the numbers suggest that he is starting to find his stride, it is clear that his approach at the plate improved as well.

A change in approach has re-calibrated Betts’ bat

Mookie Betts was the topic of discussion last night when Alex Speier of the Boston Globe joined the NESN broadcast booth. Speier pointed out that Betts had been allowing pitchers to work further into counts, a deviation from his 2018 approach. Instead of jumping on a 1-0 fastball, the right fielder was letting those pitches go by. More recently, you will notice Betts not taking strikes in the box, but instead jumping all over a middling pitch and driving it. The more aggressive approach has led to Betts becoming the middle-of-the-order hitter that manager Alex Cora envisioned.

Not only has Betts been “attacking the strike zone” as Cora would call it, but he has also started to spray the ball all over the field. According to Speier, Betts was a heavy-pull hitter through most of the 2018 regular season. But he started to shoot the ball to the opposite field at the end of the season. Betts has multiple hits in five of his last six games, and he has used all different parts of the field to place them. In Tuesday night’s game, Betts ripped a solo homer to dead center and slapped a single between a shift to left. Throughout this scorching streak, the decorated youngster has also started to avoid the pull-heavy tendencies and starting spraying hits to the opposite field based on pitch location.

Betts is taking off and becoming one of, if not the league’s hottest, hitters. Wherever Mookie goes, the Red Sox go. If he continues to produce at this level the Red Sox will be ready to re-enter the division title race.

The Boston Blame Game

Right now, the Red Sox are hanging on for dear life near the bottom of the division. The only real bright spot is the sweep of the Rays in Tampa. Many fans were happy that the core group from last year is back. However, many are wondering if more could have been done. Thus begins the Boston blame game.

With the departures of Joe Kelly to the Dodgers and Craig Kimbrel to the unknown, theboston blame Red Sox bullpen is a mystery. The same can be said for the rest of the roster. In the past, however, the bullpen in Boston has been a wildcard. You never know what is going to happen next.

Where Does the Boston Blame Lie?

There are so many things that have and can go wrong. There are also many things that can go right. However, for the Red Sox, not much has gone right for them. Where do we begin? How about the very quiet Boston offseason.

This past offseason following the World Series win was kind of quiet in Boston. While other teams were signing and trading, It seemed like not a lot was going on in the front office. The most that was done was the trade that brought relief pitcher, Colten Brewer to Boston. Brewer, who is entering his second season in the majors, played for the San Diego Padres last season.

Many teams were trading right off the bat. Teams such as the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays make some big moves to make their teams as successful as they are now. Probably the least shocking issues was the free agent market. With big names like Manny Machado and Bryce Harper not signing deals right away, it’s no surprise that many players are still waiting.

Still, even with most of the champs staying in Boston, it’s hard not to point fingers and blame the front office for not doing more. Dave Dombrowski basically stated that he didn’t want to do a whole lot. That was evident, especially with relievers going to other teams in free agency. I get it, you want the core team to stick together and keep winning. However, it’s almost May, and the Red Sox are falling behind.

Spring Training

It’s tough to not look at the Red Sox’s Spring Training record and question what could have gone differently. Alex Cora and company only allowed the core starters to pitch certain innings and games. This has led to a slow start for guys like Chris Sale and Rick Porcello. Both starters have been open with their struggles, and blame themselves for the lack of good pitching during their regular season starts.

The Bullpen

Anytime Red Sox Nation sees a pitcher warming up in the bullpen, we either get a good feeling, or a bad feeling. For example, in the game against the New York Yankees on April 17th, Nathan Eovaldi was pitching a good game, and was taken out in the 7th inning. Brandon Workman came in, and gave up a single, and walked two batters before being taken out with the bases loaded and one out in the inning. This led to Brett Gardner hitting the game winning grand slam off of Ryan Braiser.

As of right now, the bullpen consists of Workman, Braiser, Matt Barnes, Brewer, Heath Hembree, Travis Lakins, Tyler Thornburg and Marcus Walden. Many of these pitchers, with the exception of Lakins, have many years of major league experience. Lakins, who was called up and made his MLB debut on April 23rd against Detroit has an ERA of 3.38. He went 2.2 innings, striking out two in the loss to the Tigers.

The Future

The Red Sox have a lot of work to do over the next few weeks. With many players on the injured list, the bright spot is seeing rookie Michael Chavis contributing to the club. The infielder made his Major League debut against Tampa Bay on April 20th. So far, he is batting .214, with one home run and two RBI’s. He has also transitioned to second base, after playing third and first in the minors.

Does Red Sox Nation still trust Cora? It’s tough to tell. The Red Sox haven’t been playing their best, and when they do, it’s only one or two games. There are many factors in the Boston blame game, however, some are more evident than others.

With May right around the corner, it’s a guess that the Red Sox will turn a corner. A corner in which it shows them heading to the top. After all, we are the defending World Series Champions.